Alcohol, sex and health: NIU students have it all

In a recent study, over 90 percent of NIU students rated themselves as “physically healthy” and over 96 percent of the students rated themselves “mentally healthy.” Are these students demonstrating the often cited “exaggerated sense of immortality and invulnerability” of youth? Health Enhancement doesn’t think so.

The average NIU student is not too different from other college students where health is concerned. Fifty-three percent of those college students surveyed said they were not addicted to cigarettes, and 78 percent said they exercised two or more times a day.

When Joe College student was asked, 77 percent said he or she had had intercourse during the last school year but did not get pregnant (96 percent), and did not contract the HIV or any other sexually transmitted disease (90 percent). This might be because NIU students use condoms to prevent disease (69 percent). The Pill or a condom was used by 85 percent while over half of all students having intercourse had only one partner during the school year (58 percent).

Mr./Ms. NIU drinks alcohol (89 percent), yet only one percent got busted for driving under the influence of alcohol and only five percent are alcoholics. Most do not cause harm to self (84 percent) or others (92 percent) as a result of their alcohol consumption. This probably occurs because NIU students, like most college students, drink moderately or not at all (66 percent).

The most frequently treated medical condition on campus is the common cold or flu. The most frequently presented problem at college mental health offices is academic concerns and distress. These are not severe medical conditions; however, the willingness of college students to seek help at early stages of disease is another indicator of their vitality and responsibility. Fortunately, students suffering with cancer, suicide attempts, and HIV are rare—less than .5 percent. These conditions require a compassionate and expert response. However, the overwhelming majority of students enjoy good health with only occasional bouts of common illness.

Why is it that the average student thinks AIDS, eating disorders, rape, and alcoholism are epidemics on campus? Perhaps it is because, unfortunately, both the press and many in the human services (by necessity) concentrate efforts and attention on those college students who are most ill or disturbed. This focus exaggerates the incidence of disease. As a result, students underestimate their own power to achieve and maintain health. When they underestimate the power they behave in less healthy ways and so it goes … It is a cycle of impairment.

To break the cycle, we must affirm and acknowledge: College students are basically a healthy population who continue to demonstrate an ability to avoid harm and make choices which protect and improve their health. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK NIU STUDENTS!