Modern Australian Magazine

University staff and students are at high risk of ill health. Here's how to make sure they can cope

  • Written by Brad Wright, Sessional Academic (Health & Physical Education), Charles Sturt University

University students are an at-risk population for many health issues. These include mental health, alcohol and substance use, sexual assault and harassment, poor diet and lack of exercise.

Perhaps just as important, but more frequently overlooked, is the well-being of university staff. They exhibit similar risk factors for ill health. Searching for wellness or well-being on most university websites will lead to a dedicated page detailing a wealth of independent strategies and programs focusing on specific areas of health, such as mental health or workplace safety.

But studies have shown different areas of health are closely related. For example, physical activity levels and sporting club involvement have been shown to improve mental health. Universities need to take a more coordinated and comprehensive approach to promoting the health and well-being of their staff and students.

What are the biggest health risk factors?

The cuts to university funding and casualisation of the university workforce have resulted in high levels of psychological distress and feelings of job dissatisfaction among many university staff. Staff risk passing this dissatisfaction on to their students.

University staff are also particularly susceptible to preventable risks for ill-health. These include smoking, physical inactivity, poor nutrition, alcohol consumption, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure. A recent study indicated almost 50% of the university staff surveyed were at high to moderate risk for developing ill-health because they exhibited three or more of these risk factors.

University staff and students are at high risk of ill health. Here's how to make sure they can cope University students and staff are at risk of high levels of stress. www.shutterstock.com

The relatively poor health outcomes of university staff and students are primarily due to the stress and pressures associated with their circumstances. Staff are stressed due to poor job security, unmanageable workloads and low income. Students are stressed as a result of the difficulty in balancing study and other commitments such as placement, work, friends, family, and income.

What works to create healthier universities?

Organisation-level health promotion initiatives, such as job redesign, peer support groups and coaching and career planning have been shown to improve stress management.

The Healthy Universities framework is a good example of a holistic approach universities could use to address the risk factors common among staff and students. Instead of having a bunch of separate programs that focus on specific areas of health, a “healthy university” takes a whole-of-institution approach to creating a supportive environment for everyone who works and studies there.

While the “healthy university” is not a new concept, it gained traction following the 2015 International Conference on Health Promoting Universities and Colleges in Canada. The conference resulted in the development of the Okanagan Charter. Researchers, health professionals, administrators, students and policy makers from 45 countries collaborated to design this framework for health promotion in universities.

In 2016, representatives from 25 Australian universities joined together to form the Australian Health Promoting Universities Network. This represents a major commitment towards the application of the framework within Australia.

What does a healthy university look like?

The health needs of each university are different due to varying needs, resources and the location of each. Globally, there are several examples of the application of the Healthy Universities framework, such as the University of Edinburgh’s integrated Healthy University Project.

Read more: More students are dropping out of university because of mental health problems

There are also numerous examples in Australia.

The University of the Sunshine Coast has implemented the Healthy University Initiative. This includes a range of programs, policies and services to create a healthy working and learning environment. These include gymnasium, sport and fitness facilities, and free mental health training programs.

Charles Sturt University has provided opportunities for physical activity in response to staff and students expressing a need for them. These opportunities include discounted gym memberships, increased access to recreational physical activities, stronger links to local health providers, and continual encouragement for staff and students to use these resources.

University staff and students are at high risk of ill health. Here's how to make sure they can cope Free yoga classes are a great way to provide opportunities for physical activity and support mindfulness. Alex Barber/flickr

How does a healthy university impact staff and students?

Evidence shows a holistic approach to health on campus better supports the health and well-being of staff and students. It also has a positive effect on their sense of belonging as well as recruitment and retention.

This is promising. The stress-inducing culture of university and the associated negative health outcomes have been identified as common reasons for student dropout and staff disengagement in work.

Read more: Early intervention is key to support students with anxiety about starting university

While some areas may be beyond the direct control of a university, a holistic approach, like the Healthy Universities framework, should be adopted. This type of coordinated support helps students and staff cope with stressors by establishing appropriate support networks between students, their peers, other mentors and academics and integrating a more creative and needs-based approach for staff satisfaction.

Authors: Brad Wright, Sessional Academic (Health & Physical Education), Charles Sturt University

Read more http://theconversation.com/university-staff-and-students-are-at-high-risk-of-ill-health-heres-how-to-make-sure-they-can-cope-101070

Australia Today

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the next sitting week

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Professor Deep Saini discusses the week in politics with Michelle Grattan – one with a reduced pace, despite the 24 hour news cycle. They talk about whether this new pace is a better way to govern, and what the next sitting week will bring on, including l...

Ministers fiddle while buildings crack and burn

Geoff Hanmer, Adjunct Lecturer in Architecture, UNSW

The Building Ministers’ Forum (BMF) met yesterday yet again to discuss implementing the February 2018 Shergold-Weir Report they commissioned in mid-2017. The BMF is responsible for overseeing the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) and building regulation across Australia. The BMF announce...

Why is nursing home food so bad? Some spend just $6.08 per person a day – that's lower than prison

Cherie Hugo, Teaching Fellow, Nutrition & Dietetics, Bond University

If residents are given poor quality foods that don't meet their needs or preferences, they're less likely to eat it. ShutterstockThe Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety this week turned its attention to food and nutrition. The testimony of maggots in bins and rotting food in refrigera...

What's not to like? Instagram's trial to hide the number of 'likes' could save users' self-esteem

Joanne Orlando, Researcher: Children and Technology, Western Sydney University

Not enough likes? Not a nice feeling.Shutterstock.comInstagram is running a social media experiment in Australia and elsewhere to see what happens when it hides the number of likes on photos and other posts. If you have an Instagram account, you’ll get to see the numbers but your followers won...

The waterwheel plant is a carnivorous, underwater snap-trap

Adam Cross, Research Fellow, Curtin University

The whaterwheel plant can snap up its prey in milliseconds.The ConversationSign up to the Beating Around the Bush newsletter here, and suggest a plant we should cover at batb@theconversation.edu.au.Billabongs in the northern Kimberley are welcome oases of colour in an otherwise brown landscape. This...

Holidays & Travel

Go on vacation without letting yourself go

Going on a holiday is great, especially when you deserve a vacation. But there are two things that are annoying to deal with when you come home: the fact that...

What to Do When Traveling From Australia to USA

Planning a trip to USA with your friends for the first time? Well, then you have miraculously landed at the right page. We have done all the homework to prepare...

5 Top Offbeat Things to do in Hong Kong

Hong Kong sure has some quirky attractions hidden up its sleeve. And if you are looking for some unusual sights and unique fun activities to experience, you won’t be disappointed...

Exploring Whakatane NZ

One of the most exciting road trips travelers can embark on is a motorhome hire new zealand journey. This unique and exciting country has it all when it comes to...

Important Considerations When Choosing Broome Accommodation

Broome is a fantastic place for visitors of all ages. Whether you want to lounge on the golden sands of Cable beach or take the kids to learn something new...

A tour guide to Melbourne

Welcome to the second most populous city in Australia with its beautiful sites and amazing scenery. Melbourne has been identified in so many spheres as one of the most livable...

Top 5 Places to Visit in Australia

The sheer, breathtaking expanse of the Australian continent is a thing of beauty. The vast landmass is actually packed with awe-inspiring landmarks to see and countless blood-pumping activities to partake...

Adhari Park: Why is it one of the must-visit sites in Bahrain?

Despite its small area that does not exceed the 1,000 square kilometers mark, the Kingdom of Bahrain is known for being rich of touristic sites and attractions. Bahrain comprises destinations...

Exciting Off Road Adventures In Western Australia

Western Australia has long been a top destination for off roading enthusiasts from all across the world. One look at some of the top off road destinations on offer in...

Fashion & Beauty

An All-in-one Guide to Buying Women’s Glasses

Getting your first pair of women’s glasses is pretty exciting; will you get retro cat eye frames or minimalist lightweight ones? Not only can specs improve your vision and potentially...

Should you get a hair transplant in Turkey if your hair is grey?

The color of hair is a result of the pigment melanin which is made by special cells called melanocytes. The production of the pigment is largely genetically determined so you...

Marvelous Makeover - 5 Tips to Revitalize Your Look This Summer

The winter months can wreak havoc on your health and wellbeing. Your skin can dry out, your hair darkens and can go oily, and even your body changes as you...

The Gentleman’s Guide to Wearing Custom Ties

Ties are the finishing touch to your outfit and set you apart from the cloud. But with so many designs, patterns, and options to choose from, getting one that matches the...

5 unique ways to extract toxins from your body

City living can be great apart from all the environmental stresses that your skin is exposed to. Pollution, dirt’s and oils are constantly present no matter where we go so...

Modern Snapback Hats trending in Australia

Modern snapback hats are already the latest craze in the world of fashion, once again. They had ruled the roost way back in the 90s by becoming an indispensable part...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

DIY Home Remodelling Ideas That Adds ValueA place where design and functionality come togetherChoosing the Most Efficient and Effective HeatersGo on vacation without letting yourself goStaying Vibrant in Your Golden Years - 6 Tips to Stay HealthyHow to know when it is time to search for family law specialists in Sydney An All-in-one Guide to Buying Women’s Glasses5 advantages of getting an internship through PGP Australia5 Factors That Make All the Difference in Your Bathroom RemodelRelax on the beachIs A Multi-Room Audio System Right For My Home?Male power and food7 Tips for Preparing To Drive Across The NullarborHow to Save Money with Flash Sales