Larry Hembroff, Ph.D., former director for the office of Survey Research in the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, spoke at University Health Service on Wednesday to discuss the results of the 2014 National College Health Assessment.
The NCHA is a nationally recognized survey from the American College Health Association that is designed to “provide a snapshot of behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs of students with regard to health and wellness,” Hembroff said. The survey also provides the University with information to assess how far along they are to achieving the Healthy Campus 2020 goals — a collection of wellness standards for university health systems paralleling the federal program, Healthy People 2020. The University conducted the survey in 2006 and 2010 as well, but the most recent survey, conducted February 2014, included graduate students for the first time.
The survey gathered data on many different topics. Hembroff started Wednesday by discussing the top three reported academic impediments among both undergraduate and graduate students. The report stated that the top three reported impediments are stress, anxiety and sleep difficulties.
Alcohol use did not make the top 10 list for either graduate or undergraduate students. Hembroff said it’s a common misconception that alcohol and drug use are major barriers to academic success.
The percentage of students who report being diagnosed for anxiety or depression has increased slightly from 2010, and there are higher reports of students feeling lonely and anxious, especially among undergraduate students. When students were asked which were the most “traumatic or very difficult to handle” situations they have had to face, 53 percent of undergrads responded that it was their academics.
“You have to remember, you have a very select group of undergraduates here, and they’re used to success,” Hembroff said. “They come here and they are (challenged) and they are not succeeding the same way they were in high school and that is a problem for them. These academic difficulties are then reflected back in the percentages of students reporting feeling high stress and anxiety.”
Hembroff also discussed about campus safety. According to survey responses, students generally feel safer on campus and in the community now than they did in 2010. The number of reported instances of abuse and violence has also decreased between 2010 and 2014.
Overall, alcohol use remained close to unchanged between 2010 and 2014, but varies between undergraduate and graduate students. There is a higher percentage of graduate students who have reported using alcohol, but 79 percent of graduate students “stayed in the blue” when they drank. The term is refers to a measurement of blood alcohol content where students are “in the Blue,” when their BAC is .06 or lower — whereas only 49 percent of undergraduate students reported “staying in the blue.”
Of the students that reported drinking, undergraduates reported a higher percentage of students facing undesirable consequences of drinking as opposed to graduate students. Students in fraternities and sororities also had higher rates of undesirable consequences of drinking, including injury, loss of memory, unprotected or non-consensual sex and trouble with law enforcement.
Hembroff concluded by discussing which Healthy Campus 2020 goals the University has met for undergraduates and which ones still need work. The University has met the goal for making sure students are receiving information concerning alcohol and other drugs, STI prevention, pregnancy prevention, violence prevention and suicide prevention.
The University has also met the goal in terms of reducing academic impairments from sickness, work and eating disorders, as well as the goals in terms of prevalence of abusive relationships, physical abuse, cigarette use, contraception use, exercise and campus safety. The Healthy Campus 2020 goals that the University still needs to meet include reducing the prevalence of stress and anxiety and of sexual abuse, marijuana use and binge drinking.
Wolverine Wellness Director Mary Jo Desprez said the common goals of UHS is to help “students grow in their capacity to integrate health and wellness as part of their success, build resilience to manage fluctuations of life, make thoughtful choices that reduce harms and to find meaning and purpose.”
Desprez added that this survey is another tool that will allow them to discern what they are doing well, and what still needs to be done to help them achieve their goal of “creating a University of Michigan community that advances health and wellness for students.”