College is filled with new experiences, from academics and athletics to dorm life and dating. You may be living away from home for the first time, and while your growing independence can be exciting, it comes with risks and responsibilities. How do you handle demanding schedules, sexual and social pressures, and the temptations of drugs, alcohol, and unhealthy food—not to mention stress? Practice these tips to be safe and healthy and get the most out of your college years.
Quick Facts for Students
- Healthy eating is all about balance. You don't have to give up "comfort" foods like pizza. You just need to eat them only once in a while and balance them out with healthier foods and more physical activity. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables; eat fewer foods high in calories, saturated fat, salt, or added sugar; and don't go on crash diets.
- Stresscan sometimes be good. But it can also make you feel emotional and nervous or cause problems with sleeping and eating. Getting enough healthy activity and the right care and support can put problems in perspective and help stressful feelings go away in a few days or weeks. You can start to feel better by
- Taking care of yourself:
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Exercise on a regular basis.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out.
- Talking to others:
- Share your problems and feelings with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or clergyperson. Let them know how you're coping with new challenges.
- Avoiding alcohol and other drugs, which can create more problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.
- Rape statistics show that 1 of 5 U.S. women and 1 of 71 men have been victims in their lifetime. Nearly 1 of 2 women and 1 of 5 men have also experienced other forms of sexual violence at some point in their lives. Most female victims of completed rape (80%) experienced their first rape before the age of 25. Know how to contact your campus security office, and call 9-1-1 if needed in an emergency. If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence and needs help, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or your local emergency service at 9-1-1.
- Move it because you should get at least 2½ hours of physical activity a week. Regular activity helps improve your overall health and fitness. It also reduces your risk for many chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Include activities that raise your breathing and heart rates and that strengthen your muscles. Find something you enjoy, such as jogging or running, dancing, or playing sports. To meet the guidelines for regular aerobic activity, you can do nearly any activity, as long as it's done at moderate or vigorous intensity for at least 10 minutes at a time.
- Binge drinking (having four or more drinks for women or five or more drinks for men over a short period of time) is a risk factor for risky sexual behavior, unintended pregnancies, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, car crashes, violence, and alcohol poisoning. Some college students have a lot of pressure to use alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, especially when trying to make friends and become part of a group. Drinking on college campuses is more widespread than many people may realize.
- Not getting enough sleep puts teens and young adults at higher risk for car crashes, poor grades and performance in school, depressed moods, and problems with peer and adult relationships. Adults should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day, although individual needs vary. Lack of sleep can be a risk factor for many chronic diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and depression. Students who work or study long hours may not get enough sleep at night. As a result, they may be sleepy and sluggish during the day and have trouble concentrating, participating in class, taking tests, or making decisions.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among Americans. Most people who engage in suicidal behavior never seek health services. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among persons aged 15 to 24 years. Depression often goes unrecognized and untreated and may lead to tragic results, such as suicide. For youth between ages 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. Suicide is a serious--but preventable--problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities
- Most sexually transmitted diseases are treatable, and many are curable. Half of all new sexually transmitted diseases occur among young people aged 15 to 24 years. Nearly half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) diagnosed each year are among young people aged 15–24 years. Women can have long term effects of these diseases, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, tubal scarring, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain. About 1 in 4 (26 percent) of all new HIV infections is among youth ages 13 to 24 years. About 4 in 5 of these infections occur in males.
- Regular health exams and tests can help you prevent problems or find them early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better. Getting the care you need and taking steps to live a healthier and safer life can help you achieve your goals while in school and over your lifetime. Protection from some childhood vaccines can wear off over time. You can also develop risks for new and different diseases. Vaccinations are needed throughout your adult life to help you stay healthy. Be sure to ask your health care provider about getting vaccinated against meningitis, human papillomavirus (HPV), whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus, flu, and other diseases. You can also take this simple quiz to determine which vaccines you need and create a printout to take to your next health care appointment.
Learn more about college health and safety issues, including ways to
- Improve eating habits.
- Be active.
- Get enough sleep.
- Maintain mental health and lower stress.
- Quit smoking.
- Avoid substance use.
- Have healthy relationships.
- Prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
If you or a friend is struggling with a health or safety problem, you can:
- Talk to someone you trust for support.
- Visit your college health center or local clinic or hospital.
- Contact the campus or community police if your safety is threatened.
Quick Facts for Parents: Health Insurance
If your children are under 26 years old, you may be able to insure them on your plan. They can join, remain, or return to your plan even if they're
- Not living with you.
- Attending school.
- Financially independent.
- Eligible to enroll in their employer’s plan.
These rights apply to all health plans that offer dependent coverage, including grandfathered plans, whether you get coverage through your employer or buy it yourself. Adult children under the age of 26 may be enrolled during a plan’s open enrollment period or during other special enrollment opportunities. Your employer or insurance company can provide details.
Starting October 1, 2013, young adults can also be signed up directly in the new Marketplace plans. The Marketplace is a new way to find health coverage that fits your budget and meets your needs.
For more information, visits http://www.cdc.gov/features/collegehealth/