Most people are aware of the infamous "Freshman Ten" truism that most college freshmen gain ten pounds in their first year of college. A steady diet of junk food, late nights of studying or extracurricular activities, and lack of exercise can take their toll on students; as a result, many students experience health problems during their first years in a university setting.
A study conducted by the University of Minnesota Boynton Health Service and published in ScienceDaily in 2007 surveyed approximately 10,000 students regarding their state of health. The study was the first large-scale survey of its kind. Although all responses were voluntary and only Minnesota students were surveyed, the findings are considered a groundbreaking and comprehensive overview of student health concerns. Mental health issues, nutrition, obesity, and alcohol, tobacco, and drug usage topped the list of reported health issues; these findings correlate with the Center for Disease Control's findings regarding the challenges facing college-aged students in the healthcare field.
The University of Minnesota study found that over one-fourth of students had been diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point during their lives. Depression and anxiety were the two most frequently-diagnosed mental ailments for college students; many students complained of loneliness or stress due to new and unfamiliar surroundings. An emerging health issue is internet use; almost thirty percent of students reported excessive internet use and more than forty percent stated that internet activity had affected their academic performance.
Almost forty percent of students were overweight; lack of exercise and improper eating habits exacerbate this problem for many college students. The CDC cautions that college students are especially prone to eating disorders, including binge-eating, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia. Stress is also a factor, and can cause overeating or undereating, depending on the situation. The freedom that college offers to students can also lead to unhealthy eating habits and over dependence on junk food and fast food, adding to the calorie count while lacking in proper nutrition.
The CDC warns that many college students do not get enough sleep; this can contribute to serious health problems, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Lack of sleep can cause poor concentration, and has been a contributing factor in automobile accidents, poor decision making, and reduced academic performance. Fatigue is a serious problem for many students, and impairs their ability to meet academic expectations and get the most out of their college education.
Alcohol, tobacco and drug use
The University of Minnesota study found that over seventy percent of college students reported they had used alcohol in the last thirty days; almost forty percent had engaged in binge or high-risk alcohol use in the last two weeks. While tobacco use has fallen sharply in recent years, about one-fourth of students reported using tobacco in some form in the last thirty days. Less than ten percent of students reported using illegal drugs, but this figure may be artificially low due to the nature of the study.
Assistance for college students
Most campuses offer mental and physical health services for their students. Nutrition plans, advice, and fitness programs are available, often at no cost to the student beyond their tuition. Additionally, alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs are often sponsored on-campus for students who would benefit from these services. By availing themselves of these helpful programs and ensuring that they take care of their health, college students can excel academically and protect themselves from serious physical problems both now and in the future.
Christine Howell is a writer who regularly writes about Accredited Online Colleges and college related topics for Online College Guru, an online college directory and comparison website.