We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.
People consider youth synonymous with health. Changing that attitude could ease considerable suffering. Why? College-aged students aren’t immune from various disorders and ignoring them now can spell ongoing issues in adulthood.
However, recognizing the usual suspects speeds diagnosis and the path to recovery. What health issue affects the most college students? Here are the top five.
The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t kind to children and college students. Rates of depression climbed more than two times higher in 2020 than in 2019. Uncertainty over graduation and missed opportunities to travel abroad and simply move away from home onto campus left many feeling deprived of their full educational experience. Their dismay is understandable when you consider the high cost of school.
Depression can have fatal results when left untreated. People who die by suicide represent the disease overwhelming them, sapping their will to continue.
Furthermore, depression can hinder educational progress. You might find yourself unable to get out of bed for class. As you miss more sessions, your anxiety about your unfinished work grows, leading to even more overwhelming despair.
Anxiety is another frequent vampire, sucking the joy out of your happy college years. It isn’t only making the grade that has students tossing and turning at night. People continue ignoring the urgent reality of climate change, causing more young people to say “no” to starting families. Over 40 years of wage stagnation means their degree won’t guarantee that the job they get when they graduate will pay for a roof over their heads or food on their tables.
Waking up to dire realities like this every day is enough to make even the strongest-minded individuals grow overwhelmed with the enormity of their problems. Unfortunately, most American high schools don’t teach healthy coping skills like deep breathing and exercise. As a result, many college students turn to substances — some of which, like alcohol, increase their symptoms.
Universities can do more by requiring introductory life skill classes that provide students with healthy options for stress management. Students can take charge of their mental health by seeking out campus counseling resources and working with their professors to manage their workload while juggling other responsibilities like work and family.
3. Substance Use
Although movies have gotten more sensitive over the years, they still depict college life as a time of carefree keg parties. They rarely show the consequences such behavior can have on your long-term health. For example, you probably know that alcohol doesn’t do your liver any favors, but it can also wreak havoc on other symptoms.
For example, long-term heavy consumption — defined as more than two drinks daily — can elevate your blood pressure, increasing your heart attack and stroke risk. You can reduce the effects when you start drinking, but your recovery time depends on the length and quantity of consumption. It also affects your blood sugar. Again, a little won’t hurt you, but too much tips the scales, putting you at risk for insulin resistance and an ongoing battle to control your glucose.
Substance use also increases the likelihood of participating in unsafe behaviors, such as risky sexual encounters or driving while intoxicated. An assault or a criminal charge can derail your academic progress and even prevent you from entering your chosen career — please think twice before trying drugs and alcohol “just once” at a party.
4. Eating Disorders
Research indicates as many as one in ten teen girls may struggle with an eating disorder. Your susceptibility increases during your college years for two reasons: you are free from parental supervision over your eating habits. Furthermore, you feel unsure of yourself and need something you can control. For too many young women, that “something” is their weight.
Please don’t fret too much about the “freshmen 15.” Your best bet is to look at your plate as a clock, filling half of it with fresh or steamed fruits and veggies when you visit the dining hall. Opt for healthier snacks like nuts over empty-calorie cheese puffs and maintain a regular exercise routine to control your weight — and stress.
COVID-19 affected college students in myriad ways. It meant missing their promised graduation ceremony or pressing pause on plans to study abroad for some. It introduced others to the reality of having a long-term illness in America.
Over a quarter of those 18 to 39 develop ongoing symptoms such as debilitating fatigue, headaches and widespread body pain. Cardiovascular symptoms like hypertension also plague many.
Long COVID can change career plans. You might need to seek work that allows reasonable accommodations, such as working from home for those days when you simply don’t have the spoons for a shower, commute and full day at the office. Unfortunately, despite improvements in telework during the pandemic, it’s still challenging to find such positions that pay a living wage or offer health benefits — something you’ll need to manage your disorder.
What Health Issue Affects the Most College Students?
Ignoring health issues that arise during college can impact your long-term health. Many of these disorders produce symptoms that interfere with your education and ability to lead a rich, fulfilling life.
It helps to know your enemy. Understand these health issues that affect the most college students and keep tabs on yourself, talking with your counselor or campus health center if you notice signs.