New living quarters, a fresh social scene & academic expectations are just some of the reasons that college students get stressed out. Students should be aware that they are not alone in dealing with the stress that comes with college. Most colleges provide student services. Developing a social support network & exercising regularly can also help maintain mental health.
College is often a time of sexual exploration and students are at higher risk for STDS than other age groups – nearly half of the 19 million new STDs each year occur among people aged 15-24 years. Encourage safe sex, contraceptive use and annual screening for STDs including chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV and syphilis. Providers should begin screening women for HPV age 21.
Living independently is a big, unfamiliar responsibility for college students, who can easily develop very poor sleeping habits molded around class schedules & social outings. Encourage students to avoid stimulants like caffeine & nicotine, maintain a comfortable sleep environment free of noise & light, stick to a set sleep schedule & avoid pulling all-nighters to study.
College students have the freedom to choose what they eat. While college cafeterias offer healthy options, students can eschew these to dine at fast food restaurants or consume junk food in their dorms. To avoid gaining unwanted pounds, students should stick to dietary recommendations and limit their intake of sugar-loaded, fatty foods.
Dorms can house over a hundred students on a single floor, and bathrooms, kitchens and lounges can be shared by dozens of people, making person-to-person transmission of viruses more likely. Make sure college students are up-to-date with the Tdap, meningococcal (MCV4), HPV and influenza vaccines. Remind students to keep their hands clean and avoid sharing personal items.
Four out of five college students drink alcohol and about half binge drink. Drinking can lead to other health-risk behaviors such as unprotected sex, smoking and physical fighting. Encourage students to participate in substance-free get-togethers & educate them about the dangers of alcohol & what to do in the event that alcohol poisoning occurs.
College is full of exciting new experiences for teen patients, from meeting people to living away from home. But college can also be stressful as young adults try to develop new routines, maintain a healthy diet and manage responsibilities independently. Offer your college-aged patients these tips and information to help them stay safe and healthy at school.