University releases health, safety survey results

Student Health Survey states that over 83 per cent of Queen’s students don’t meet Canadian eating standards

80.9 per cent of students are willing to seek help for mental illness.
80.9 per cent of students are willing to seek help for mental illness.
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Around 76 per cent of Queen’s students don’t get the recommended amount of exercise and 83 per cent don’t meet Canadian healthy eating standards, according to a recent survey.

The 2013 Student Health Survey, which was run by Queen’s Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS) in February, gathered information from students on their mental and physical health, including stress, alcohol use, quality of sleep and safety on campus.

Queen’s was part of a group of 32 Canadian universities that conducted the survey, which was created by the American College Health Association.

To gather the responses, HCDS sent out emails to a sample of 6,000 students. The survey saw 1,241 students respond, which is about a 20 per cent response rate.

“That’s on par with what was expected, in what we’ve had in the past and generally what we see with these kinds of surveys,” said Kate Humphrys, the health promotion coordinator at HCDS.

The survey found that a majority of students — 57 per cent — reported binge drinking in the last two weeks, and that sleepiness and stress affect the academic performance of many students.

However, 89.6 per cent of students described their own health as “good”, “very good” or “excellent”.

Humphrys said HCDS is particularly interested in the statistics around exercise as well as sleep.

Roughly 17.5 per cent of students surveyed called sleepiness either a “big problem” or a “very big problem” while 16.3 per cent of students reported they had gotten a lower grade on a project or an exam due to lack of sleep. “Sleep is important for students, because it really is an important part of your general well-being, in terms of mood and mental health,” Humphrys said. According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, adults need 150 minutes of exercise per week. Seventy-six per cent of students surveyed reported that they aren’t currently meeting this standard.

The survey also asked students to report on mental health problems they had experienced in the past 12 months.

Around 91 per cent of students reported they had felt overwhelmed by all they had to do, 60.4 per cent reported feeling overwhelming anxiety and 10 per cent reported that they had seriously considered suicide.

“This makes it clear to us that we need to focus on mental health education and mental health awareness on campus,” Humphrys said. However, she added, the survey also found that the majority of Queen’s students — 80.9 per cent — were willing to seek help from a mental health professional if they needed it.

“It’s a fantastic reflection of the work we’re doing on campus,” Humphrys said.

The survey found that only 54 per cent of female students felt “somewhat or very safe” at night in the Kingston community, compared to 84 per cent of male students. Humphrys said the survey also let students write about why they felt safe or unsafe on campus and in Kingston.

“We overwhelmingly heard that off-campus lighting was an area that students had concerns with,” she said.

Since the survey uses new questions, it can’t be compared to past surveys done at Queen’s, Humphrys said. However, she added that the next survey will let them compare trends.

“We will be able to draw conclusions on trends when we do the survey again, which will be in 2016, or around that time,” she said. “It’s not a confirmed date at this time.”

She said the data isn’t meant for just HCDS, but rather for use by the rest of the Queen’s and Kingston communities as well.

“We need to be working together, students, staff and faculty, to look at the areas that have come out of this data and how we can help students,” Humphrys said.

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