The health of students in institutes of higher education: An important and neglected public health problem?
Stewart-Brown S., Evans J., Patterson J., Petersen S., Doll H., Balding J., Regis D.
Background: A survey of students in three UK higher education establishments was undertaken to obtain information about students' physical and emotional well-being, their attitudes to, and beliefs about health, and the prevalence of risk factors for future ill health. Methods: Health was measured by the prevalence of long-standing illness and by the SF-36 health status measurement tool. Survey results were compared with equivalent data for 18- to 34-year-old in the local population. The prevalence of long-standing illness was also compared with two national surveys. Results: The survey achieved a 49 per cent response rate. More than one-third of respondents reported a long-standing illness, a higher prevalence than in all comparison surveys. Students scored significantly worse than their peers in the local population on all eight SF-36 dimensions. The greatest difference was for role limitations as a result of emotional problems. The main sources of emotional distress were study or work problems and money. Conclusion: The poor response rate in this survey dictates the need for caution in interpretation of the results. However, they suggest that the health of students is poor relative to that of their peers, and that their emotional health is more of a problem than their physical health. Public health practitioners might want to pay more attention to the health of this important and relatively neglected group. Worries about studies and money appear to be affecting students' academic work, and this should be of concern to higher education establishmen ts.