Friday, October 24, 2008

College GPAs and health-related behaviors

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that college is often a difficult time for many students. With learning to juggle classes, exams, and friendships, it can all take a toll on one's health. In this new study from the University of Minnesota Boynton Health Service, it looked at college gpas and health-related behaviors of 24,000 students in both 2 and 4 year institutions.

The results showed that almost 70% of students were stressed, and about 33% felt that the stress was hurting their academic performance. These students had a mean gpa of 3.12 compared to 3.23 gpa for those who did not feel the stress impacted them.

Other factors that caused declines in gpa were lack of sleep, excessive television/computer use, and smoking. Gpas ranged from 3.04 to 3.12 compared to 3.27 to 3.28 for those who received adequate sleep, limited their television/computer use, and did not smoke. Other issues such a mental health, drug use, alcohol use, physical activity, and several others were also surveyed.

Although this seems logical that with unhealthy behaviors gpas drop, it's good that college are taking notice at the health of their students.
Hopefully, this will help students change their behaviors and college officials to provide additional resources where neded.

Now, of course, there are those college students who defy all these odds and wind up having extraordinary gpas despite having unhealthy behaviors. Yes, I raise my hand to that one, though I wouldn't say my gpa was extraordinary. These students also need help as success isn't always about a gpa number.

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It's a bit ironic I read this article, because I recently made the connection about one of the reasons why I have a hard time going back into academia. Actually, the academic environment is essentially like a big trigger for me. It was one of the times the ED was the most heightened and out of control. I was super stressed and felt like I was just grasping for straws half the time. This environment puts me in what I call "tunnel-vision" mode as it's all about succeeding and reaching the next goal no matter the cost. There are other insecurities as well in relation to intellect and self confidence, but it's really about the strong association of academics + eating disorder that freaks me out.

If I decided to go back this route, how do I tell myself it will be different this time or that academia is not this or that?

5 comments:

KC Elaine said...

oh GOSH college + mental illness is hard

Lisa said...

Amen to that. I started my freshman year about three months after I was diagnosed, and my weight dropped like the NYSE. I had no supervision and very little support when I really needed it.

Just keep repeating your last sentence. It will be different because YOU are different; you've learned and struggled and changed. You know that the "tunnel vision" phenomena happens, so you can take steps to mitigate that. And finally, I hope you're able to go to a school that allows you to keep in close contact with your existing doctors/support team - college counselors are a crapshoot.

kb said...

Tiptoe,

I can definite correlate a turning point in my eating disordered experience to graduate school and a total fear of failure and a sense that I was completely inadequate (there were also personal things going on, but it's all tied together).
What is ironic is that I teach now, and while it's not at that highly ratcheted of an institution (high school), the kids feel a lot of pressure, and so do the adults in the community and there is a lot of weird competitiveness. I sometimes wonder if it is a healthy environment for me, but I also enjoy connecting to the kids and see THAT as important.
Sorry that this was rather long and maybe off-topic...
But I think that you CAN have a different experience if you work to stay balanced.
- Kristina

Charlynn said...

College is a huge trigger for me, too. It's tough keeping everything balanced, especially with an eating disorder lurking in the corner. My eating disorder loves stress, so that's where a lot of the trigger comes from.

You can't let it stop you, though. If you want to return to an academic environment, you should do so - but cautiously. Start out slowly if you have to and test the waters while taking one or two classes. You might surprise yourself at how much better you can manage the responsibilities of school thanks to the distance you now have from your eating disorder. I am presently back in school for a second degree, and compared to my first round of college when I was actively eating disordered, I am amazed at how much more quickly I can get things done because *gasp* my brain is not starving! That has been the easy part, but at least it's there so I can deal with everything else.

But now I'm rambling. :) Try not to let fear hold you back if you really do want to return to school.

Tiptoe said...

Thanks everyone for your comments and support. I think you are all right in that the second time around can be different, especially since I know what I would be getting into in the first place.

Kyla, indeed having any mental illness and being in college is difficult, especially without any help or support.

Lisa, thanks for the reminders that I am different from that time period and have learned and grown.

You're right that college counselors can be iffy. I lucked out with mine, but it still can be a guessing game at some universities.

Kristina, I think it is cool you went into teaching and want to connect so much with your students. Students really do live for that, even if they may not show it at that present time.

Interesting about the competitiveness factor.

Charlynn, I wish I could say that fear doesn't have a death grip on me, but it does right now. My T. did ask me the other day if it was that I was waiting for the fear to lessen before making a move. In a way, that's probably partly the case. It reminds me of the thinking when people say they want recovery when they are really ready to recover. And well, the fact is that one may never be ready.

I think a similar case can be made for fear too.