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A brief guide to men's health in college|college student walking|student sneezing|alcohol|male student walking

Health & Wellness

Men’s Health in College

For a lot of young men, going to college is the first taste of freedom and something that resembles adult life. They go from living with their parents and having all of their meals cooked for them to living in a dorm and having the option to cook for themselves (although they may opt to get all of their meals from the college cafeteria). They are responsible for their own budgets and managing their own time.

This newfound freedom can be a blessing or a curse. Those who were given a lot of freedom to make their own decisions at home may not find the transition to college too difficult, but those who were ushered from one after-school club to another and whose homework schedules and diets were micromanaged at home may find that being left to their own devices is a shock.

college student walking


Common College Student Health Issues


College is also the time when most students will begin managing their own health, so it’s important to know the most common health issues face by college students in order to actively try to avoid them.

Weight Gain


There is an often repeated statistic that students tend to gain 15 lbs during their freshman year. It is thought that this is caused by students having access to more food and not having their eating habits monitored by parents or guardians. In addition, they have disposable income and depending on their age and where they live, they may have access to alcohol as well.

While the 15 lb weight gain may be exaggerated, studies do show that students do tend to gain weight while at college. 1 Students who stay active and who are well informed about healthy eating are less likely to gain weight.

Sexual Health


Sexual health is a controversial but important issue. In some parts of the United States, there is limited information available to students and contraceptive services are hard to access. 2 This means that young people attending college may be at increased risk for STIs. Providing young people with a sound sexual education before they head off to college could be helpful in reducing sexual health issues.

student sneezing


Communicable Infections


College campuses are an area where infections such as measles and meningitis can spread quite rapidly, as can the flu. 3 Populations on campus are large and diverse, and it is easy for infections to spread. This means that it is particularly important that everyone, especially individuals who are in at-risk groups (asthmatics, those with suppressed immune systems) make sure that they stay up to date with important vaccinations.

Mental Health and the College Workload


Perhaps the biggest challenge that individuals in college face is mental health. One in three college freshmen struggles with mental health issues, according to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association. 4 Major depressive disorder and general anxiety disorder are common issues that affect students all over the world.

A part of the reason that students struggle so much with mental health is that university systems are so busy. Each campus is full of students, faculty members are over-worked, and terms are managed so that students are rushing to complete assignments and cram for exams in all their subjects at the same time.

Student mental health services are overworked and use tends to be cyclical with few students using services early in the year but demand peaking when academic strains get higher. Some colleges do have services such as resilience training that can help students cope with the difficulties they are facing. 5 This could be useful for young men in particular, as men are less likely, in general, to seek advice about mental health issues than women. 6

alcohol


Drugs and Alcohol


The college years are a time when young people are most likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Substance abuse is hardly a new phenomenon for college students. It is something that started to attract a lot of attention in the 1970s.

Alcohol use among college students has remained fairly stable over the last few decades, but the use of other drugs is cyclical. 7 It is thought that as concern over one particular drug rises, prevention and education efforts relating to that drug also rise. As use falls, efforts to discourage use of that drug will also fall and there is a resurgence in the recreational use of that drug.

Men are more likely than women to use alcohol to help themselves cope with depression and men are often more enthusiastic risk-takers when it comes to drugs as well. 8 This means that the choices that poor choice men might make during their time in college could be setting them up for serious health issues in the future.

male student walking


Conclusion


If you are planning to go to college and want to make sure that you stay healthy, then you should remember that good health comes from many small choices. It’s possible to enjoy a social life in college and remain healthy, but it will take good time management skills and some emphasis on self-care.

Getting enough sleep, eating a reasonably healthy diet, and exercising regularly will help promote good health. Drinking alcohol is okay if you do so in moderation (a drink or two couple of times a week is better for your body than “saving up” your alcohol and binge drinking during the weekend). Staying up late and cramming for an exam will leave you tired and stressed, but studying consistently will keep you fresh and prepared for your classes.

If you're feeling stressed, go for a run, practice mindful meditations, or use some essential oils in a room diffuser or personal diffuser. A significant part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is finding balance in everything that you do and college is a great place to learn how to manage your time effectively and make good choices while still having fun.

Photo credits: LucaPape/shutterstock.com, EstradaAnton/shutterstock.com, Yanawut Suntornkij/shutterstock.com, JacobLund/shutterstock.com, AimPix/shutterstock.com

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