Re­port finds col­lege stu­dents not ex­actly the pic­ture of health

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Jen­nifer Harper

Amer­ica’s col­lege stu­dents are in a wor­ri­some state of health, ac­cord­ing to a study re­leased Nov. 15.

Most drink and are sex­u­ally ac­tive, many have been di­ag­nosed with men­tal ill­ness, and plenty are fat and in debt, says the Univer­sity of Min­nesota, which sur veyed 10,000 stu­dents from 14 cam­puses across the state.

“Col­lege stu­dents face mul­ti­ple risks to their health, and their be­hav­ior af­fects all parts of their ex- i s te n c e ,” said Dr. Ed­ward P. Eh­linger, di­rec­tor of the school’s Boyn­ton Health Ser­vice, which co­or­di­nated the re­search.

It is the first com­pre­hen­sive anal­y­sis of cam­pus health is­sues, and it re­flects na­tional trends, Dr. Eh­linger said.

Nearly eight out of 10 stu­dents re­por ted be­ing sex­u­ally ac­tive, while 71 per­cent drink al­co­hol. An ad­di­tional 37 per­cent de­scribed their drink­ing habits as “high risk,” con­sum­ing five or more drinks at

one sit­ting. A quar ter of the young re­spon­dents smoke or use smoke­less to­bacco.

Many also ap­pear to be trou­bled: 27 per­cent said they had been for­mally di­ag­nosed with a “men­tal health ill­ness,” with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety lead­ing the list. Among young women, 23 per­cent said they were sex­u­ally as­saulted, with “lin­ger­ing im­pact” on their stud­ies.

The col­le­giate pop­u­la­tion also is get­ting fat and in­ac­tive: 39 per­cent are con­sid­ered clin­i­cally over­weight or obese. An ad­di­tional 41 per­cent ad­mit­ted that ex­ces­sive com­puter and In­ter­net use was hav­ing a se­ri­ous ef­fect on their aca­demic per­for­mance.

Other re­search con­fir ms cam­pus life can be com­plex, in­deed.

Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Col­lege Health As­so­ci­a­tion, the top im­ped­i­ments to good aca­demic per­for­mance are stress, fol­lowed by cold or flu, sleep dif­fi­cul­ties, con­cern for friends or fam­ily, ex­ces­sive In­ter­net and com­puter-game us­age, or de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety disor­ders.

Du­bi­ous habits have se­ri­ous ram­i­fi­ca­tions, Dr. Eh­linger said.

“Good health helps stu­dents re­main in school, and a col­lege de­gree or cer­tifi­cate is an ex­cel­lent pre­dic­tor of bet­ter health and eco­nomic sta­tus through­out one’s life­time,” he noted, adding that bad be­hav­ior can have a wide au­di­ence.

“Col­lege stu­dents are a large and grow­ing pop­u­la­tion and are es­tab­lish­ing life­styles and be­hav­ior pat­terns,” Dr. Eh­linger said. “They are the trendsetters and the role mod­els for younger peo­ple, and they are the fu­ture lead­ers of our so­ci­ety.”

He also is con­cerned about col­le­giate debt. The sur vey found that 58 per­cent of the stu­dents owe $1,000 or more on their credit cards.

“Stu­dents with greater than $1,000 of credit-card debt tend to have higher rates of de­pres­sion and have lower grade-point av­er­ages,” Dr. Eh­linger said.

The study also found that 7 per­cent of the stu­dents used il­licit drugs, and 9 per­cent had no health in­sur­ance.

Pol­i­cy­mak­ers and col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tors need to con­sider the find­ings and make stu­dent health a pri­or­ity, he said.

“We need to look at a stu­dent as a com­plex and com­plete per­son,” Dr. Eh­linger said.

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