Students not partying much but more stressed than ever

Courtesy of Ahmet Guler
The recently revealed results of the NCHA tells us that students are drinking less and using designated drivers more, when they do.

How much are our students drinking? Are they using condoms? What are the factors affecting their academic performance?

In 2010, Mount Royal University's Wellness Services asked 5000 students to take part in the National College Health Assessment (NCHA). The 1334 student responses provided for a 27% response rate.

The result is a window into the lives and experience of our students.

Charmène Brewer, Wellness Services' Health Education Coordinator, recently presented some of the results of the survey to the University, and the findings make several positive indications about the level of health education and awareness on campus.

"The NCHA collects data on topics such as stress, sex, tobacco use, safety on campus, mental health and much more. Students are also asked about what they think their peers are doing in the same categories. It's interesting to see the difference between perception and reported use," explains Brewer.

Mount Royal was the only Albertan institution to participate this year.

"The University of Alberta has plans to take part in 2011, so it will be interesting to cross-reference each others results to see if our numbers are unique to Mount Royal or if they're regionally influenced somehow. We would love for another Calgary based institution to participate so we can do a direct comparison," says Brewer.

Improving on past results

Mount Royal also took part in the survey in 2006 and again in 2008 and many of our numbers have improved.

For instance, the 2010 survey compared with the previous two editions indicates that students are benefitting from more increased health and wellness information and education than ever.

And Mount Royal students are staying active (76.6% of students did cardio or aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes at least once in the last week) and increasing their condom use.

There is always a lot of room for improvement, and surveys such as the NCHA help guide Wellness Services' programming. Events such as the Alcohol Awareness Fair, Sexual Health Fair, Stress Busting, and sleep kits are just some of the ways Wellness Services is addressing the issues.

"We recognize that many of our students are practicing good health behaviours, but we need to do some education to those who aren't," says Brewer.

Stress levels on the rise

An emerging trend from the 2010 data is that Mount Royal students are stressed. 33% of our students said that stress has affected their academic performance in the last 12 months, and 52% of students say that they have had a "more than average or tremendous" amount of stress in the last 12 months.

The NCHA offers valuable information into the health and wellness of students, and there is incredible research potential. Brewer says faculty are welcome to use the data as a research resource.

"We would love for faculty members to look into the survey and correlate certain health behaviours with others," says Brewer.

"We don't have the resources or the expertise to do it ourselves but would encourage faculty to use the data for research."

Wellness Services has shared the presentation with several departments across the institution. If your department is interested in the results and viewing the presentation, please contact Charmène Brewer.

"The National College Health Assessment yields meaningful results," says Brewer. "We hope to share this information widely to offer a snapshot into the health attitudes, behaviours, and perceptions of Mount Royal students."

- Steven Noble, Dec. 9, 2010