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ISSUE 119 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/28/2005

State of health

By Executive Editors
Executive Editor

Friday, October 28, 2005

State of Health

The headline “St. Olaf students are healthier than national norms, recent survey shows” sits on the homepage of the St. Olaf website, ostentatiously promoting our virtues as a college. This most recent claim to fame comes from the findings of the National College Health Assessment (NCHA), which was administered on campus in spring 2004 and was taken by 1418 students. While the administration congratulates students for maintaining health standards that either meet or exceed national averages, we feel that reflecting on the survey actually debunks a few common myths we hold about ourselves. In spite of frequent lamentations about various social scenes, like “Oles only marry other Oles” or “No one really parties here,” it turns out that we’re a completely normal student body. The dating scene: 31.4 percent of students reported that they are in a committed relationship (compared with a national average of 36.8 percent). Most students feel, and generally vocalize, that they can barely turn around in Fireside without seeing a couple holding hands and whispering to one another. While the perception may be that couples mate for life during Week One, 31.4 percent translates to approximately three out of every 10 students. The dating scene might be lacking because we think our peers are only interested in pursuing committed relationships; whether or not that’s true, it’s reassuring to know that most of our classmates are sitting right next to us in the boat of singledom. The party scene: 39.3 percent had never used alcohol or had not within the past 30 days (the national average is 31.3 percent) while 52.7 percent had used alcohol one to nine times in the past 30 days (the national average is 52.3 percent). In other words, half of the student body could have drank both nights of every weekend during any single month. Although we might tout our image as a dry campus to prospective students and parents, these statistics prove that Ole party habits aren’t different from those of other college students. While our style of partying might differ – honor houses are as close as we come to fraternities – over half of us still take a break from the books on the weekends just like everyone else. The health scene: 10.6 percent of St. Olaf students experience seasonal affective disorder (compared with 6.5 percent nationally). We may gripe about the predominantly gray months of the school year, but we need to remember that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) represents a significant health concern. Students who experience traditional symptoms of depression – excessive eating and sleeping and weight gain – during the fall and winter months should not ignore their feelings. While it might be unecessary to run over to Health Services whenever you feel down about an exam, we encourage students to take SAD seriously. Anything from spending additional time outside or placing your desk in a position to receive more light can help. The fitness scene: 56.8 percent had exercised at least three times in the past week (compared with a national average of 44.2 percent). In other words, over half of the student body makes it down to Tostrud every other day or more. Even if we think we’re pulling all-nighters and eating late-night pizza every week, we’re still concerned enough about our health to take action and make the trek down to Tostrud, apparently at least three times per week. Maintaining a balanced life as a student is a formidable task, but let’s not forget to actually rest every once in awhile, too. Misconceptions about the state of health of the St. Olaf student body may pervade campus, but we should remember that we’re completely normal college students doing normal college student things. Although we should continue to attend to our social, mental and physical health, let’s not forget that we’re probably healthier than we think.

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