Communal showers, a lack of dryers in the laundry room, and dealing with irritating roommates can be annoying, but campus life can be a lot of fun, too. Whether you’ll be living on your own for the first time this fall or you’re already an experienced dorm resident, here are 10 common health hazards that you might not be aware of.
College parties are considered a rite of passage, but some young adults take things to the extreme and drink excessively on a regular basis. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that binge drinking, which occurs when men have five or more drinks or when women have four or more drinks over the course of about two hours, is the most common type of excessive alcohol use in the United States. Approximately 90 percent of alcohol consumed by U.S. drinkers under age 21 is binge drinking, states the CDC. In additional to its short-term effects like impaired decision making, binge drinking can eventually lead to serious chronic or deadly health problems like high blood pressure, liver damage, neurological damage, and more.
Having casual sex with friends and near strangers, as opposed to being involved in committed relationships, is another fairly common activity on college campuses. According to Kinsey Institute researcher Justin Garcia, dating is on the decline and most college students have experienced more hookups than first dates, reports CNN. Not only can hooking up lead to STDs and unplanned pregnancy, it can lead to emotional turmoil if one partner wants to pursue a relationship and the other doesn’t. Garcia also states that roughly half of students who hook up do so because they are looking to start a traditional relationship or are seeking emotional gratification.
Most college students under the legal drinking age can easily obtain alcohol from older friends or courtesy of their own fake IDs. As mentioned above, binge drinking is common is common and almost expected, but 21st birthday celebrations are usually a big deal that sometimes get out of hand. Drinking games or trying to down 21 drinks to commemorate the event can lead to alcohol poisoning and death. Learn how to Be Responsible About Drinking at BRAD 21.
Big life changes—like going off to college and living away from home for the first time—can make even the simplest tasks seem overwhelming. Everyone feels sad and mopey from time to time, but many college students mistakenly assume they’re just down in the dumps when in reality they are experiencing symptoms of clinical depression. A 2011 Northwestern Medicine study found that one out of every four to five students who visits a university health center for routine illnesses like colds and sore throats turns out to be depressed. Clinical depression requires treatment, which may include counseling, medication or a combination of the two. Things to watch out for? Losing interest in things that were once enjoyable, experiencing major changes in sleeping habits, and purposely distancing yourself from friends and family are just a few warning signs.
Excessive drinking is dangerous enough on its own, but adding car keys to the mix can make things even worse. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that over 1800 college students between 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries. According to the Safe Lanes on Campus: A Guide for Preventing Impaired Driving and Underage Drinking report, nearly 80 percent of deaths caused by unintentional injuries were because of auto accidents. If you know you’ll be drinking, always have a designated driver or call someone who is sober to ask for a ride. Getting behind the wheel is not a risk that’s worth taking.
The CDC explains that texting while driving is perhaps the most dangerous form of distracted driving because it takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the steering wheel, and your mind off of what you are doing. Texting while driving has been banned in more than 40 states, yet the Federal Communications Commission reports that 11 percent of drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 who were involved in and survived car accidents admitted that they were sending or receiving texts when they crashed. Use a “designated texter” to respond to your messages while you’re behind the wheel, or pull off the road if you absolutely have to use your phone.
Trying it “just this once” might sound harmless enough, but experimenting with illegal, prescription, and even over the counter drugs can lead to big problems. You never know how your body is going to react or what you’ll do while you’re under the influence, and the consequences could be deadly. Even occasional or casual experimentation can eventually lead to dependence or severe drug abuse. US News Health states that researchers also found that prescription drug abuse among college students has been linked to depression and thoughts of suicide.
Stereotypes about college life involve staying up all night partying as well as studying, and both are true for some students who are constantly burning the candle at both ends. Skimping on sleep to study or wrap up a report that you knew about all semester yet didn’t begin until yesterday can cause a lot of grief. Not only can you wind up so tired you can’t even remember what you studied or turn in work that doesn’t make much sense, you’re more likely to be involved in an accident or make poor decisions. Research has also found that regular sleep deprivation puts the body at an increased risk for illness, according to Psychology Today.
Bad cough? Fever? Itchy rash? It’s tempting to diagnose yourself by reading articles and forums, but sometimes it’s better to consult a medical professional rather than Google images. College students who are away from home may feel funny visiting someone other than their primary doctor and the Internet offers a wealth of information, but the student health center is most likely a better bet than Dr. Google. Although one doctor told CNN that health forums can be a valuable tool for finding information about symptoms that you’re experiencing, user-suggested home remedies can turn out to be useless if not dangerous.
Friendships are one of the most important, exciting aspects of college life. Many students meet people that they’ll stay in touch with for the rest of their lives! But before you lend your toothbrush to someone you just met or pass a can of beer back and forth between three people, think again. Bacterial meningitis, which is a serious infection that can be fatal, can be spread through saliva reminds Fox News. Make sure you have had a meningitis vaccination, keep things clean, wipe off surfaces that are regularly touched by others, and wash your hands as often as possible.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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