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College student health - Statistics & Facts

In the 2020/21 academic year, there were around 20.8 million college or university undergraduate students in the United States. Many college or university students are living on their own for the first time in their lives and although most are young and healthy, they are also exposed to many new health risks. Such risks come from living in dormitories or close quarters with other students, through the stress of being away from home and the pressure of academic life, or through the use of drugs and alcohol. As of fall 2021, around 39 percent of college students rated their health as very good, while only 13 percent stated their health was fair or poor. Many colleges and universities provide health services for their students and promote awareness of the various health issues that students encounter. As of 2021, around 54 percent of surveyed students in the U.S. agreed or strongly agreed that their health and well-being were priorities at the college or university they were currently attending.

Common health issues among college students

The most common health issues reported by college students in the U.S. include relatively minor things like colds, orthopedic injuries such as a sprain or broken bone, urinary tract infections, and stomach bugs. However, some of the biggest health risks to college students are not physical, but mental. The stress and lifestyle changes that come with university life can make college students especially vulnerable to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Mental health clinicians at colleges and universities have stated that anxiety, depression, and stress are the leading issues among their college student patients. In 2021, it was estimated that up to 41 percent of college or university students showed signs of depression. However, only 23 percent of students strongly agreed that they knew where to go on their campus if they needed to seek professional help for mental or emotional health.

Drinking and drug use among college students

Drinking and drug use in university and college is widespread and infamous. Those aged 18 to 22 who are enrolled full time in college are more likely to binge drink than those of the same age who are not enrolled full time in college, although rates of binge drinking among both groups have decreased in recent years. The most commonly used drugs among college students include marijuana, prescription stimulants such as ritalin and adderall, and cocaine. In 2021, among college students who had ever used marijuana, around 12 percent stated they had used marijuana daily or almost daily in the last 90 days. Other health risk factors involving safe sex, smoking cigarettes, and a lack of sleep are also common in colleges and universities and require appropriate education and health care services.

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