National Collegiate Health and Wellness Week: 5 Health Risks for College Students

This past Sunday marked the beginning of National Collegiate Health and Wellness week. Sponsored by The Bacchus Network of student leaders and advisors, the campaign aims to promote awareness of risks to health and wellness commonly faced by college students.

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The college lifestyle poses some health risks to students.

While the college years are very enriching intellectually, the lifestyle often is damaging to a student’s health. From temporary weight gain, to long-term or incurable STD’s, or even death from over consumption of alcohol, campus life can take a toll.

In order to raise awareness of the habits that threaten students’ health and well-being, here are the top 5 health risks for college students:

Cold, flu, and other illnesses – College kids typically don’t get enough sleep between studying, keeping up with classwork, and social engagements. Diet and exercise are also not priorities for many. Those factors contribute to wearing down a student’s immune system. Add in the cramped living spaces provided by dorms and you have the perfect conditions for illness.

Weight gain and resultant health issues – The “freshman 15″ is a common term used to describe the weight gain many students experience when they first go off to college. I personally gained 10 pounds after abusing my newfound freedom to decide my own meals, choosing many nights to have Pop-tarts and mashed potatoes for dinner. But many students gain a significant amount of weight during college due to the availability of unhealthy foods in dining halls and campus stores in combination with over consumption of alcohol. Significant weight gain increases the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and a whole host of other health issues.

Alcohol abuse – Many college kids party as hard as they study (sometimes even harder), leading to alcohol abuse. In fact, research shows that over 80 percent of college students report drinking alcohol, and nearly half admit binge drinking – over 4 drinks for women and 5 for men in a 2-hour period. Over the past 10 years, hospitalizations for alcohol overdoses among 18-24 year olds has increased 25 percent, and an estimated 1,825 college students die each year due to alcohol-related injuries, including drunk driving accidents.

Unsafe sex – An estimated 400,000 college students report engaging in unsafe sex each year, and nearly 100,000 report being too intoxicated to remember consenting to unsafe sex. This risky behavior results in a higher incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, it’s reported that, of the 19 million new STD’s diagnosed each year, half are among young people age 15-24, and an estimated one in four college students will contract an STD during their time at school.

Depression – A recent survey revealed that nearly 30 percent of college students report having felt too depressed to function. Six percent of college students report that they’ve contemplated suicide, and one percent report having attempted suicide. In addition to a propensity towards mental illness, the stress of school work, living away from friends and family for the first time, feeling lonely or isolated, and worry about finances brought on by college can trigger depression symptoms in a student.

Did you notice a decline in your or your child’s health during the college years? Tell us about it below.

Sources: bacchusnetwork.com, stopalcoholabuse.gov, cdc.gov, nursingschools.net, and nih.gov