College student health - Statistics & Facts

In the 2016/17 academic year, there were around 22.4 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 2017, around 38 percent of college students rated their health as very good, while only 15.6 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. Some of the most common health topics students receive information on from their school are alcohol and drug use, depression and anxiety, stress reduction, and physical activity.

The most common health issues reported by college students in the U.S. include sinus infection, strep throat, migraine headaches, and urinary tract infections. However, around 8.8 percent of students reported having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and 5.9 percent reported having a chronic illness, such as cancer, diabetes, or an auto-immune disorder. Eating disorders and weight gain are relatively common among college students due to changes in eating habits, lifestyle, and stress. As of 2017, it was estimated that around 1.2 percent of college students had been diagnosed with bulimia, and 1.5 percent had been diagnosed with anorexia.

The stress and lifestyle changes that come with university life don’t only affect physical health but can impact students’ mental health as well. Mental health clinicians at colleges and universities have stated that anxiety, depression, relationship problems, and stress were the leading issues among their college student patients. Around 41.5 percent of college students had seen a counselor, therapist or psychologist for mental health services as of 2017, and around 24 percent of students who utilized mental health treatment took prescription medication for their mental health problems.

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. In 2017, around 6.2 percent of college students stated they had used marijuana one or two days in the last 30 days, while 0.8 percent stated they had used cocaine one or two days in the last 30 days. Nevertheless, only 1.2 percent of college students have been diagnosed with substance abuse or addiction. 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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