Modern Australian

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

NEWS

Surge in pre-poll numbers at 2019 federal election changes the relationship between voters and parties

Another issue is that pre-polling gives an advantage to the major parties over the smaller ones, due to the latter having fewer resources.AAP/Bianca de MarchiOn the morning of the last...

why memorising poetry still matters for human connection

Committing poetry to memory is so much more than a rote exercise.Taylor Ann Wright/UnsplashMemorising poetry was once common in classrooms. But it has, for the most part, gone out of...

what exactly does a showrunner do?

Donald Glover is the showrunner on Atlanta, 'perhaps the most curious credit in the history of the small screen'. imdb/FX NetworksWhat do J.J. Abrams, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Shonda Rhimes, David Lynch...

How many people have eating disorders? We don't really know, and that's a worry

Eating disorders disproportionately affect females and young people.From shutterstock.comLast week, federal health minister Greg Hunt announced that more than 60,000 Australians will be asked about their mental health and well-being...

keep in mind the 'bacon and eggs' principle

Morrison describes the “the bacon and eggs principle" where "the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed".AAP/Shutterstock/The ConversationScott Morrison has a sharp lecture for bureaucrats about their KPIs, in...

Frydenberg outlines financial sector reform timetable

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has issued a timetable for the government’s dealing with the recommendations from the royal commission into banking, superannuation and financial services, which aims to have all measures...

For the first time in centuries, we're setting up a generation to be worse off than the one before it

The avocado latte is indeed a thing, but young Australians are spending less on luxuries than they used to, while older Australians are spending more. ShutterstockEach new generation of Australians since...

Michelle Grattan on the Pacific Islands Forum wash-up, media freedom and the public service

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu.AAP/Mick TsikasMichelle Grattan talks to University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Deep Saini about the week...

Pacific Island nations will no longer stand for Australia's inaction on climate change

The Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu this week has ended in open division over climate change. Australia ensured its official communique watered down commitments to respond to climate change...

Glamorising violent offenders with 'true crime' shows and podcasts needs to stop

Even in death, the voice of Carl Williams is louder than that of his victims. Intimate prison letters written by the convicted murderer and drug trafficker to his ex-wife, Roberta...

Case in Victoria could set new legal precedent for stealthing, or removing condom during sex

A surgeon has been committed to stand trial next year in a case involving stealthing, believed to be the first of its kind in Australia.ShutterstockIn September 2018, a prominent...

The exquisite blotched butterfly orchid is an airy jewel of the Australian landscape

The butterfly orchid grows beautifully.The Conversation/John DearlarneyThe blotched butterfly orchid (Sarcochilus weinthalii) looks fairly unremarkable when it’s not flowering, generally resembling the far more common orange blossom orchid. But when...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

Splurge or Save: Our tips on what to Spend the Big Money on for your Wedding5 ways to make sure you have a good camping tripMouth Ulcer Treatment – The Easiest It Can GetLaser Treatment For Skin Tag RemovalThe Importance of Mental Health During PregnancyFavourite Pastimes for SeniorsHow to Dress for Work: Chic 9-5 StyleFind out how reading Funeral Poems can bring comfort to your griefWhat Men Like in Women’s FashionDocument you need for a divorce7 Steps Complete Guide to Sustainable Lifestyle5 ways to hydrate your hair and skin while you travelGreat Ways to Stay Fit When You are BusyThe Pros and Cons of Leasing A Car - Should You Do It?Deliveroo announces reusable packaging partnership with Returnr in world-first scheme