Academic journal article College Student Journal

Health Issues and Service Utilization of University Students: Experiences, Practices & Perceptions of Students, Staff and Faculty

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Health Issues and Service Utilization of University Students: Experiences, Practices & Perceptions of Students, Staff and Faculty

Article excerpt

Limited evidence exists concerning the health of young adults, most likely attributable to the fact that young adults perceive themselves to be insusceptible to infirmity. This lack of information extends into higher education sectors, places that have venues for dispensing health information/education to many young adults. What is important to note is that some research indicates that health problems may influence student attrition, particularly first year students; however, information concerning their health problems is inadequate. As such, the overall goal of this exploratory research was to complete a thorough needs assessment of the issues affecting student health from the perspective of the student and faculty and staff that routinely assist students concerning health issues. Specifically, the purpose was to examine health issues and issues that have the potential to affect the health and academics of 1st year students. Additionally the practices, experiences and perceptions concerning university services and service referrals received by first year students, and suggested by staff/faculty that deal with these students was also examined. Students (n=412) reported a wide range of issues that have the potential to affect health, quality of life and academics, namely concerns about studying/exam writing, relationships, time management, finances, self-esteem, obesity, and grief, to name a few. Staff and faculty (n=23) reported dealing with students with a wider range of issues, such as anxiety, anger, depression, mood disorders and sleep disorders. Although students appeared quite knowledgeable about the health services offered on campus, awareness did not translate into use. University personnel should become more actively involved in promoting on-campus services to first year students and advocating the potential implications that well-being may have in successfully completing university.

INTRODUCTION

The evidence concerning the determinants of population health continues to grow. Early work completed by Lalonde (1981) indicated that there existed three key factors determining health status: environment, genetics and lifestyle. Although this provided a basic framework from which to study health determinants, much has subsequently been learned about health. Today Health Canada (2002) contends that the key factors which are integral in population health include: individual behaviour and coping skills, heredity (biology and genetic endowment), socio-economic status (education, income, social status), social support networks, employment/working conditions, environmental influences (social and physical), access to health care, gender and culture. Healthy lifestyles are a worthy investment, not only for the quality of life of individuals, but also for the country. "Illness is costly" (Lyons & Langille, 2000) and takes considerable resources (i.e., family, county) to cope with and to enhance compromised well-being. With population aging, increasing life expectancy and the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions and physiological limitations, the burden of illness will intensify if intervention is not mandated.

Health research has relatively neglected the young adult population (18 to 22 years of age), most likely attributable to the fact that young adults typically perceive themselves to be insusceptible to infirmity and usually experience optimal levels of health (see, for example, Boehm, Selves, Raleigh, Ronis, Butler, Jacobs, 1993; Hovell, Mewborn, Randle, Fowler-Johnson, 1985; Lipnickey, 1986). Patrick (1995) raises the following issues that have failed to be addressed:

   But what about college students?
   Who is responsible for their health?
   Who has the authority to speak for
   them? Who is to be held accountable
   for their preventable illness or
   death? Is it parents, students,
   employers of college students, local
   public health officials, college
   administrators and trustees, or some
   combination of these? … 
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