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Oral and mental health problems bring students to FSHS appointments


Mar 5, 2019

Two-thirds of university students need the services of the Finnish Student Health Service during the academic year. In 2018, students visited the FSHS more than 454,000 times in total.

“We are able to reach a high proportion of university students as we offer students free-of-charge online courses relating to issues such as mental health and nutrition as well as services promoting community wellbeing, which benefit all students. These figures don’t show up in the statistics”, says FSHS Medical Director Päivi Metsäniemi.

The most common oral health problems can be easily avoided

The typical student sought FSHS’s services because of dental or gingival disorders and mental health problems.

“Last year’s figures are in line with the KOTT 2016 survey, according to which the most common diagnoses among students were vision problems requiring glasses in 28% of cases, and tooth decay in 24% of cases. In addition, 16% of students reported various mental health disorders”, adds Metsäniemi.

Although women represent only slightly more than half of the total student population, they accounted for 69% of FSHS healthcare service appointments in 2018 compared with 31% for men. The most common reasons for visiting the FSHS were similar irrespective of gender. The ten diseases diagnosed most frequently in men were related to tooth decay or other dental disorders (39%) and various mental health disorders (21%). The corresponding figures in women were 26% and 23% for oral health and mental health, respectively. In women, the top 10 reasons for using the service also included contraception (6%).

“Two common Finnish public health problems – caries and gingival disorders – are also very common in the student population. Lack of preventive care and self-care can be seen in the students’ mouths, since the prevalence of both disorders can be reduced in simple ways available to all: brushing teeth twice daily with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, less frequent sugar consumption and avoiding acidic drinks”, reminds Anne Komulainen, Medical Director of Dentistry at FSHS.

One in five appointments were related to mental health

A fifth of all appointments were due to mental health symptoms. The most common problems were various depression and anxiety disorders. The FSHS can help primarily with mild and moderate mental health problems, and many students get the help they need from its services. The treatment of severe disorders often requires longer-term treatment, in which case students are referred for further care in the public sector. In 2018, just over 3,000 students were referred for 1st, 2nd or 3rd year rehabilitative psychotherapy funded by the Social Insurance Institution.

“Many changes and performance pressures occur during student years, and these may accumulate and result in psychiatric symptoms. The number of students visiting the FSHS for mental health reasons has been growing at the rate of approximately 5% over the past few years, and in 2018 almost 12% of students used FSHS services because of their mental health. Students are seeking these services more often than before. This may mean that the stigma related to mental health problems has diminished. We do not know whether students’ mental health problems have increased over the past few years”, says Pauli Tossavainen, FSHS Mental Health Medical Director.

Digital and remote services

The online student service Self was introduced in 2016. Last year, students used Self over 500,000 times, for purposes such as managing appointments, seeking advice, looking at examination results and filling out health surveys.

Digitalisation and increased electronic communications have also resulted in the development of new types of services and the introduction of new channels. Last year, the FSHS started offering chat services, tested the use of remote diagnostic tools at remote consultations, and piloted artificial intelligence for the assessment of the need for treatment. A large-scale research project on a digital treatment programme for depression also started last year.

“In developing our digital services, we are thinking students first. Good healthcare services do not allways require a physical space. Instead, the most important thing is an in-depth knowledge of the client and the medical issues involved”, states Metsäniemi.

Further information:
Päivi Metsäniemi, Medical Director, tel. 045 633 8858
Anne Komulainen, Medical Director of Dentistry, tel. 046 8769159
Pauli Tossavainen, Mental Health Medical Director, tel. 046 876 9115