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College life a test of students' health (Released: 8/21/96)

by Ken Ross, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- The freedom of college life can bring stress-related illnesses that send many students to their campus health centers.

The stress of dealing with that freedom and coping with academic schedules and part-time jobs creates an ideal breeding ground for such ailments as colds, flu, mono, and strep infections -- especially for freshmen. In fact, most colleges are breeding grounds for those kinds of illnesses, says Michael Kurland, director of student health services at the University of Connecticut.

"Stress levels increase sharply, especially for freshmen," adds Beverly Beckwith, nursing director of UConn's student health service. "They're out on their own -- many for the first time -- and they have no structure in their lives. They have fatigue. They may not be eating right because they're skipping dorm meals. They're living close to other students. Some are homesick. They need some structure in their lives."

Other common problems students bring to campus health centers:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Alcohol-related problems.

"We advise parents to openly discuss this with students and to advise them to take appropriate action for safer sex or for abstinence. By the time we get the students, it's too late. They have made their decisions and often those decisions are irresponsible," Kurland says.

Some students come to universities with well-established drinking problems, he says.

"Parents also should discuss this problem with students. It's not uncommon at many schools in the first week of the semester to have students who have drunk themselves into unconsciousness brought to the health center. Usually they are freshmen."

Even though campus health centers expect to see students with health problems from the beginning of the semester, the biggest workload of the year usually comes during final exam week of the fall semester, when stress, lack of sleep and poor nutrition often combine with the flu.

On the positive side, Kurland notes that parents should not worry because most students take fairly good care of themselves and know when to seek help.

"It's all part of the development process," he says. "Students learn to become responsible for their health and well-being and subsequently become savvy health-care consumers."

Check out another news release with tips on student health
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