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Many people envision college students as youthful and fit. However, this age bracket isn’t immune from health issues.
Certain problems plague this demographic more than others. Here are eight common health issues for college students to watch for in yourself or someone you love.
Television likes to depict college life as easy and carefree. You attend a few classes a week and spend the rest partying. The reality is far different. Fully 70% of full-time college students work, often putting in up to 35 hours a week. When you combine that load with studying, you have to schedule social time.
However, popular media influences behavior, and ideas like “this is the best time of your life” prompt many students to push themselves beyond their limits to ring the most out of every moment. The result can be disastrous for their health.
Sleep is essential to peak physical and mental functioning. Students who get behind the wheel drowsy to make it to an 8 a.m. class after a closing shift run as high a risk of accidents as someone who is intoxicated. Insufficient sleep also contributes to behaviors like binge eating, which can pack on unwanted pounds and increase physical health risks.
2. Substance Use
If you think college means keg parties, please be aware that behaviors like binge drinking can lead to ongoing substance abuse issues. It has nothing to do with how strong you are or how well you “handle” your liquor. Alcohol causes biochemical changes in the brain that increase anxiety the morning after — compelling you to take another drink to calm your nervous energy. Before you know it, you can’t function without booze.
It’s better not to begin drinking. An underage DUI can cripple the career prospects you enrolled in college to attain. If peer pressure proves hard to resist, invent a handy excuse — such as alcohol interfering with a medication you take — to make it easier to say no. Better yet, seek a friendship circle that doesn’t encourage you to participate in unhealthy behaviors.
All that pressure to make the grade can result in crippling anxiety. Ironically, you can put so much pressure on yourself that you freeze, unable to write that paper or focus on your studies. You create a vicious spiral of guilt and inactivity that only compounds your panic.
Fortunately, most universities have mental health resources available on campus. Many of their services are free with the price of tuition. Getting care becomes more problematic if you later work for an employer who doesn’t offer health benefits, so please take advantage while you can.
Depression can also strike college students. A bad grade or breakup can send you into a spiral of despair.
Also, your body is probably still transitioning to adulthood. Everyone develops at different rates, and fluctuating hormonal levels affect your neurotransmitters — which regulate your mood. Hormonal birth control can also contribute to this effect in women. Talk to your doctor if you suspect your contraceptive may play a role in your blues. Many more options are available today, and switching could solve the problem.
5. Infectious Disease
Infectious disease poses another risk to college students. Those immunocompromised might hesitate to attend class if schools abandon mask requirements.
COVID-19 isn’t the only infectious threat college students face. First-year students living in dorms are seven times more likely to contract meningitis than other college students. This bacterial infection can kill — get to your campus health center immediately if you experience symptoms like the worst headache of your life with other flu symptoms.
6. Sexually Transmitted Diseases
College can be a time for exploring your sexuality. However, you must do so safely to protect your health.
Abstinence is the only foolproof way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and disease. However, you have multiple birth control options available. Barrier methods such as the condom and female condom are best for preventing disease.
7. Eating Disorders
Some college students might focus too much on not gaining the “freshman 15.” However, overly restrictive diets can lead to disorders like anorexia and bulimia, both of which can kill.
Other students might turn to binge eating to cope with stress. However, doing so opens them up to physical health woes. Excess weight puts undue pressure on joints, complicating conditions like arthritis — the rheumatoid form can strike at any age. It also elevates their heart disease and Type 2 diabetes risk.
Finally, accidents can take a toll on college students. Unfortunately, some, such as traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), can have lifelong effects.
As the Allstate commercials say, there’s no way to prevent some mayhem. However, students can protect themselves through behaviors like wearing a helmet when biking or participating in contact sports, buckling their seatbelt and staying off their cellphone when driving.
Common Health Issues for College Students
Although the media often depicts college students as youthful and fit, they aren’t immune from health issues. Some problems strike this demographic more than others. Educating yourself about the eight common health issues for college students above can help you make it to graduation at your mental and physical peak.