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Hidden health hazards

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Once students leave home for university, many things change. Not the least of these are sleep patterns, diets, and general lifestyle habits. Binge drinking, drugs, stress and sex quickly become common words in a university student's vocabulary.

Not all students are unhealthy, but during a typical university career most students suffer health issues ranging from common colds to pregnancy, depression or drug overdose.

"We mainly deal with respiratory ailments such as colds--because of all the people being in one area--family planning, reproductive issues, asthma and muscle or skeletal injuries," said University of Calgary Health Services Head Nurse Fran Oliphant. "We also have some, though not many, cases of anorexia and bulimia, but we have more cases than the average family practice because of the age of most of the people who go here."

U of C Health Services provides student access to family physicians, chiropractors, podiatrists, a dermatologist, psychiatrists, and massage therapists. Everyday issues are handled with a three to five-day booking time, where as annual physicals should be booked three to four weeks in advance. Walk-in cases are treated in order of medical priority.

Oliphant explained that while residence students aren't generally unhealthy, they face some issues that other students do not.

"Rez students may have dietary issues such as fad diets which are low in iron, they have their sleep patterns altered, and due to stress their immune system goes down," she said.

Oliphant added that although alcohol and illicit drug use are concerns for residence students, they are not often treated clinically.

"We don't see the alcohol and drug problems that often because their use usually happens at events, or students are just hung-over so they take care of that themselves," she said.

One major change that affects university students is the increase in stress levels. While some students find ways to cope, others cannot. These students turn to the U of C Counselling and Student Development Centre, which offers management techniques to help students deal with stress in their school and life.

"Often students don't realize the variety of services we offer," said CSDC Director Dr. Sharon Crozier. "They shouldn't just come in when they have a crisis."

Along with personal crises, the CSDC helps students deal with academic issues, career planning, and graduation plans.

"Overall personal issues are dealt with the most, just due to the age of the majority of students," said Crozier. "They include anxiety, religious issues, body image, break-ups, and depression. Due to what happened in America this past week, we offered group sessions for residence students and students from abroad."

Crozier explained that counsellors are on call to see clients. Emergencies are seen promptly and non-emergencies within three days. There is a waiting list for ongoing counselling.

The CSDC can be reached at 220-5893 and Health Services at 220-5765.

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