Health risks for college students
College students face a number of physical and mental health challenges as they make the transition from high school to life on a college campus. Poor nutrition and lack of physical activity exacerbate many of the most common problems that many new and returning college students experience as they acclimate to the freedom of living on their own and responsibilities of the academic workload.
As many as 80 percent of college students feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities at college, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. The Alliance also reports that up to 50 percent have been so anxious that they struggle with their schoolwork.
Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health problems on college campuses. This is a debilitating illness that affects biology, psychology, and social functioning which can make it difficult for the student to excel at campus life.
Depression often goes hand in hand with several other mental health problems such as substance abuse, eating disorders, and motivational problems. Yet students often do not realize they suffer from these afflictions, and even when they do, they often do not know where to get help. In fact, according to the Alliance, one in four college students have a diagnosable mental illness – yet 40 percent do not seek help.
Despite strong evidence in research that links good nutrition and exercise with other healthy behaviors and choices, many college students either are unaware or ignore this information. Sufficient sleep, crucial to sustainable academic performance, is difficult to achieve without these healthy habits.
One of the main results of substance and alcohol abuse is risky behaviors. These include drop in academic performance, injuries, STDs from risky sexual behavior, and dealing with hangovers. Alcohol use also can lead to depression, and depression can prompt more self-damaging behavior.
Most college campuses have centers and staff who can help students who face these challenges. Many students are not aware of these services, but they have been shown to be extremely helpful. Parents and friends can give support to students who are thrown into the new challenges of college life, and encourage them to take advantage of services on their campuses.