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Well-being One-fifth of students report chronic health issues


Studying: a challenging life phase


Students report more health problems than the rest of the population, a Swiss study has found, with nearly 20% saying they have chronic health issues. Are stress or financial worries to blame?

According to a Federal Statistical Office report published on Tuesdayexternal link, the most commonly cited chronic health problems among students were chronic illnesses (41%) and mental health issues (26%). Far less common were learning disabilities, vision and hearing impairments and impaired mobility (all 5% or under).

How the students felt about their health seemed to correlate with their financial situation, the study found. One in ten said their health affected their studies. Of this group, more reported mid- to severe financial problems (59%), than the average student population (43%). And 20% expressed dissatisfaction with social relationships, almost twice the student average (2016 data).

Differences in gender, with peers

Men were more likely to say that their health was good or very good (81%) than women (73%).  But overall, students considered their health to be worse than that of their peers, noted the statistical office. Just 77% of the student population aged 20-35 said their health was good or very good, compared with 94% of the general population of the same age. 

The reasons?

“One factor is that working students (around three quarters) have a double burden, plus students are more affected by material deprivationexternal link than their general population peers and have on average a lower income and a lower satisfaction with their financial situation,” said the statistical office.

International comparison

On an international scale, however, the situation in Switzerland was not as bad as in some other European countries.

The 18% of students with chronic health problems puts Switzerland at around the European average, according to data cited in the report.

dw students

graphic on % students with chronic health problems

In Britain - not represented in this data -  there has been much debate of late about student mental health and suicide riskexternal link and whether students are accessing enough supportexternal link.

The report noted that the differences between the countries could be due to factors like average age of the student. Generally, the older the student, the more health issues he or she reported (this was also true for the Swiss study). Other factors could be differences in awareness of certain health issues on a national level, the approach taken to integrating people with disabilities into higher education and cultural and social differences over what constitutes a chronic health problem.

Universities react

Reacting to the Swiss figures, swissuniversitiesexternal link, the sector’s umbrella body, told that student health was an important concern for universities. Very diverse framework services are available for students, from advice centres to healthy food and opportunities to do sport, the organisation said.

“Studying is a very demanding and intensive phase of life, that requires a big and time-consuming commitment from the students,” said general secretary Martina Weiss by e-mail. “Flexible study models allow universities to ensure that working students and students with special needs are able to complete their studies without an additional burden.”

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