The first ever comprehensive report of the health of college students has been released by University of Minnesota, focussing on areas like mental health, obesity, financial and sexual health, alcohol use, smoking, personal safety, physical activity and how many students do not have health insurance.
The study at the University of Minnesota Boynton Health Service involved 10,000 college students with a focus on students from 14 campuses in Minnesota who were tracked a wide range of student health issues. One of the key findings of the study has revealed how today's technology affects their health and academics.
In fact, 28.7 percent of students surveyed report excessive computer/Internet/TV use and 41.8 percent indicate the activity affected their academic performance. Ehlinger said members of the public, higher education leaders and policymakers should pay attention to the findings and make the health of college students a priority.
"The health of college students is important not only to the institutions they attend but also to the health of the state of Minnesota. 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," said says Dr. Ed Ehlinger, the director and chief health officer of the university's Boynton Health Service.
The scientists conducted the research with a thought that the findings would help the schools determine what programmes they need in order to improve their health of their students. "The reason we're studying students from 14 schools is because these health issues are community and state issues. We really need to address college student health issues on a state-wide basis and not just on an individual school basis," said Ehlinger.
"College students face multiple risks to their health and their behaviour affects all parts of their existence. We need to look at a student as a complex and complete person," he added.
The researchers carried the survey involving 14-school report each of participating institution would receive its own school-specific report. Reporting their results on mental health, the authors said that 27.1 percent of students surveyed had been diagnosed with a mental health illness within their lifetime and 15.7 percent were diagnosed with a mental health illness in the last 12 months. Of all the surveyed students, 18.5 percent reported being diagnosed during their lifetime with depression and 13.3 percent were diagnosed with anxiety.
The findings also showed that nearly two-fifths or 38.5 percent of all students surveyed fall within the overweight or obese/extremely obese categories. 28.7 percent of students surveyed report excessive computer/Internet use and 41.8 percent indicate the activity affected their academic performance. Of students surveyed, 33.4 percent of them report carrying some level of credit card debt over the past month and 57.8 percent report the debt as 1,000 dollar or more.
Authors said that alcohol continues to be a matter of great social concern especially for universities and colleges students. Among students surveyed, 70.5 percent report using alcohol in the last 30 days and 37.1 percent report engaging in high-risk drinking within the past two weeks. More than one in five or 22.4 percent of female students reported a sexual assault in their lifetime with 6.8 percent reporting having been assaulted in the last 12 months. For male students, only 4.9 percent report being sexually assaulted in their lifetime with 1.9 percent reporting an assault within the past 12 months.
Of students surveyed, 77.6 percent report having been sexually active in their lifetime and 72.1 percent having been sexually active within the past 12 months. Nearly four out of five or 78.5 percent of students report having had zero or one sexual partner within the last 12 months.
"Students are pretty monogamous according to the results, which contradicts the commonly held stereotype of students being promiscuous," said Ehlinger. The study also found that current tobacco use rate in the last 30 days for all students at the 14 schools was 25 percent.
Ehlinger outlined the report's overall findings during the press conference and health summit on Nov. 15.