Sardelli ’15: On health and the wellbeing of college students

For almost my entire life I have suffered from chronic stomach pain. Although I rarely get stomachaches now, thanks to my medication, I always have the fear in the back of my mind that a debilitating stomach pain will overcome me while preparing for a big exam or in the middle of a class. It hasn’t struck me until relatively recently that the busy life of a college student often doesn’t allow for much time to take care of our bodies and minds. The health of college students is an issue that is often overlooked.

Many of us have a lot on our plates – from schoolwork, to jobs, to extra curricular activities. During free time we’d also like to squeeze in as much of a social life as possible or just relax from everyday stress. These constraints leave little time for falling ill and needing to see a doctor, so many students simply ignore their medical problems, as I know I have done in the past. Although finding time or having the resources to see a doctor is a problem that many adults deal with, college student or not, many college students do not have the transportation needed for off campus appointments or access to a specialist nearby.

In addition, many college students have unhealthy lifestyles and habits. However, most of these unhealthy habits stem from the stress of school work. Stress in itself is incredibly bad for both mental and physical health. Stress has been linked to weight gain, depression, and high blood pressure, among other things. Stress, in combination with an overload of work, also leads many students to pull all-nighters, or get very little sleep, which is much needed for a body and mind’s healthy functioning. The late hours that students stay up until are often fueled by coffee, which, if consumed too often, can also be bad for one’s health.

In addition to all of these unhealthy habits, college students don’t always have access to the healthiest foods. Dining halls, in many colleges, are filled with greasy, fried food. Because college students are often short on time and money, cooking for themselves is not always an option. Students who are not on a meal plan aren’t always able to cook the healthiest meals, since most college students are broke and can’t afford nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables. When I was studying abroad I wasn’t on a meal plan, and I basically lived off of pasta for the sole reason that it was cheap and, as a student, I didn’t have an expendable income.

Although colleges generally have resources for students who struggle with mental or physical health problems, the issue of many students being unhealthy continues to be an unfortunate reality at schools across the country. Getting a college degree should certainly not be an easy feat, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of one’s health.