Stress of university life can lead to illnesses for some

by Mike Enright

Dealing with midterms, increasing tuition, homesickness and all-nighters – college can be stressful.

And the number of University students feeling stressed out seems to be increasing, said Dave Dorman, adviser for the University’s health advocate program.

“One thing you hear people talk a lot about is stress,” Dorman said. “Personally, I think technology stresses college students. Cell phones, iPods, computers, the Internet – it’s there all the time.”

Dave Golden, public health and marketing director for Boynton Health Service, also said it is possible more students are excessively stressed. Right now, however, Boynton Health Service does not have enough data to be sure, partly because most of the clinics see members of the public as well as students.

“Our mental health clinic is the only clinic in the health service that only sees students because it is so full Ö and they are definitely seeing more patients,” Golden said.

But the clinic also has made some changes, making it easier for students to get in, “so it’s hard to tell if the demand is increased, or if we’re just doing a better job meeting it,” he said.

According to Boynton Health Service’s 2004-2005 annual report, 633 more visits to the mental health clinic were recorded than during 2003-2004. But there were only 101 fewer visits in 2002 and 2003 than last year.

“Though, what has happened is the amount of unique students who have gone has increased in that time,” Golden said.

Boynton Health Service will have a better idea of student stress levels in the spring, when it completes its 2007 student surveillance survey, Golden said. The survey asks students to rate the amount of stress in their lives and how well they think they are coping with it. The last time Boynton Health Service conducted the survey was 2004.

Excess stress can be doubly bad because it is hard on the body and makes it more likely for someone to get sick, Golden said.

“It’s kind of a weird relationship,” Golden said. “You have that time when you’re really stressed and that’s when your immune system is kicking in, but as soon as it lets down, that’s when you can get sick.”

Residence halls

Golden said more of the data seem to show the risk for students in residence halls getting sick is pretty much the same as those who don’t.

“You would expect that we would see a much higher incidence in the residence halls, but we don’t,” Golden said.

Sophomore psychology student Kelly Wysong said she hadn’t had influenza in 10 years, until she lived in Comstock last year.

“I got the flu really bad for like five days, and I had to go to Boynton,” Wysong said.

Wysong also said that even though it seemed like someone always was sick, she didn’t really think students are more likely to get sick living in residence halls.

“I think I usually get sick from my friends, not strangers,” she said.

Brian Pogatchnik, a first-year biochemistry student, said it really depends on the situation whether someone gets sick. In his case, he lives in a single-room.

“I’m not really worried about getting anything; maybe the flu,” Pogatchnik said. “But I’ll probably get a flu shot anyway.”