22 Sep 2010 06:11 AM

My baby is in first grade, but I might imagine that once you send a teen off to college, you worry less about their health. After all, they are almost grown and probably don’t need mama and daddy watching after them. Then again, maybe they do.

The President of the American College Health Association, Dr. Al Glass, as well as other health officials recently came up with the top 5 college student health concerns for National Public Radio (NPR).

Coming in at #5 was alcohol. While this may seem a bit cliche, drinking is still a big problem for college students. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 4 out of 5 college students drink. It’s not the drinking itself that is the problem – it’s the binge drinking. About 40 percent of those that said they drink reported going on a drinking binge within the last two weeks. And, almost 600,000 of those college students that do drink are injured each year because of it.

The #4 health concern for college students was exercise. The students are probably eating bad, drinking too much, missing sleep and all that plus lack of exercise can lead to weight gain. Students should get at least two and a half hours of exercise each week.

Infectious disease was the #3 health issue. While swine flu was a concern last year, there is no impending health concern this fall, but students still need to remember to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. There are also vaccines, such as Tdap, MCV4, and the HPV series, that you can suggest your college student get.

You will see that many of these issues go hand in hand. The #2 problem is sleep, or specifically the lack there of. Students may be up all night partying or pulling an all nighter, but regardless of the reason, lack of sleep combined with bad eating habits and lack of exercise might run down their immune system and make them more prone to catching an infectious disease. A study in a 2001 issue of Journal of American College Health found that only 11 percent of the college students sampled got good, quality sleep.

And finally, the #1 concern is mental health. The adjustment one must go through when entering college, such as leaving friends and family to enter a new environment, can cause a huge amount of stress. Add to that study related stress and mental health issues can arise. Many campuses are starting to realize this and offer programs to help students reduce stress.

College is supposed to be a fun, exciting time when your “baby” becomes a grownup, but you still need to keep a check on them to make sure they are safe and doing well.

(This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

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