Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

Multiple Health Behaviors and Psychological Well-Being of Chinese Female Undergraduate Students

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

Multiple Health Behaviors and Psychological Well-Being of Chinese Female Undergraduate Students

Article excerpt

Introduction

Mainland China has experienced tremendous socioeconomic change over the past 30 years. To respond to the rapid economic growth, the Chinese higher education system has expanded in terms of its college enrollment, tuition fees, and financial aids, and through the emergence of new institutions since the late 1990s. (1,2) The total number of students enrolled, for example, increased from 1.08 million in 1998 to 2.68 million in 2001. (3) Chinese college students must manage not only the transition from high school to college, but also the outcomes of a booming economy and the social changes that China has experienced. Most Chinese universities have been located in urban areas. Therefore, some students may also need to adjust to living in a modern city when they move from small remote rural areas. With the increasing enrollment in colleges, the environment and dynamics of college life are different from 20 years ago. Dorms are not the only living place anymore; more college students are choosing to live outside campus. Also more students have part-time jobs. Consequently, there have been dramatic shifts in lifestyle-related behaviors such as exercise, smoking, eating habits, and how to manage stress. For example, sexual activity is not rare anymore, which contradicts the traditional social norm of no sex prior to marriage. The social and psychological pressure resulting from such changes make stress management increasingly important. The job market is not very promising for young graduates and the pressures of getting a good job after college are palpable. This young Chinese generation not only embraces a lot of opportunities, but faces more challenges as well.

Health education specialists dedicated to working on the health needs of Chinese youth should shift from focusing only on physical health (absence of disease) to promoting healthy lifestyle-related behaviors. For a long time controlling infectious diseases has been the priority for health preventions and interventions in China, but now, these are no longer the prevailing health issues in urban areas. In 2008, the first three causes to death among Chinese people in some cities and counties were cancer, heart disease, and cerebrovascular disease. (4) These are all non-infectious diseases but lifestyle related. A report from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention reflects this shift. (5) Their investigations focused on Chinese residents' nutrition and health statuses by examining eating habits, smoking, drinking, and physical activity behaviors in 2002. It revealed that only 14.1% of residents were physically active and most of them were older people. Young adults spent more time doing sedentary activities such as watching TV, and 4.6% of urban young people did not eat breakfast. Smoking is still a public health crisis, with 48.2% of males and 2.6% of females using tobacco. The rate of drinking alcohol has increased significantly, especially among females (73.1%).

However, nationwide, the prevalence of such health behaviors and the health status of Chinese college students are not clear. There have been limited studies targeting the college student population. In the area of exercise, Luo found that college students had spent more leisure time on surfing the internet and dating and less time on physical activities. (6) Especially among female students, the average time for daily exercise was less than 15 minutes.

Regarding sexual behaviors, one study found that 7.3% of 970 participants (undergraduates: freshman to junior) reported having had sexual intercourse. (7) In contrast, several studies of multiple health behaviors of college students have been conducted in Hong Kong. Lee and Yuen Loke studied health-promoting behaviors and psychological well-being of university students. (8) Their results echoed Luo's findings that fewer college students engaged in any form of physical activities, particularly females. …

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