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Use of intoxicants drops, mental health issues increase


Feb 13, 2017

The consumption of intoxicants continues to decline among students. The share of abstainers among university students has doubled since 2000. Alcohol consumption has declined especially among men. However, the social pressure to use alcohol remains the same. The choice of a non-alcoholic beverage still attracts attention. Both daily and occasional smoking have declined, but the use of moist snuff is becoming more common.

One-fifth of all students have experimented with or used some type of drug, pharmaceuticals or a combination of alcohol and pharmaceuticals for the purpose of intoxication. Drug experimentation and use increased from 2000 until 2008 among university students, but have since returned to the previous, lower levels.

This information can be found in the 2016 Finnish Student Health Survey conducted by the Finnish Student Health Service. The survey targeted under 35-year-old undergraduates at universities and universities of applied sciences.

Mental health issues increase

Students still suffer from mental health issues. The share of students with diagnosed depression and anxiety disorders has clearly increased since 2000. Only 66% of respondents rated their mental well-being as good or very good, while 30% said they experienced mental issues. The main problems included feeling stressed, unhappy and depressed, having troubles concentrating, and suffering from insomnia caused by worries. Among respondents, 33% experienced a great deal of stress, most commonly caused by performing in public and coping with studies.

Study-related anxieties were common, with one-fourth of students worrying frequently about their studies in their free time. Study-related fatigue was more common among female than male students.

Compared to previous years, students now reported better experiences of study guidance. In the latest survey, 36% of respondents considered the guidance offered to be good or very good. In earlier surveys, this figure ranged between 21% and 28%.

Weight problems more prevalent

Of male students, 36% and of female students, 26% were overweight. Being overweight was more prevalent among students at universities of applied sciences than among students at universities. The rise in weight problems has continued among students at universities of applied sciences and female students at universities, but has begun to decline among male students at universities.

Phone service and digital services have replaced medical consultations

Regarding service use, students were asked about medical consultations, phone services and digital services. Students at universities used the services offered by FSHS more commonly than students at universities of applied sciences used the student health care services offered by municipalities. This was apparent in general health care, oral health care and mental health care services. According to the survey, the FSHS phone service and digital services have replaced medical consultations.

Over half of respondents had tested or used a mobile application related to health and well-being. The most popular applications were related to exercise and nutrition.

Student health trends on the FSHS website

The Finnish Student Health Service has provided research data on the health of university students since 2000. The latest survey, the fifth of its kind, offers a comprehensive overview of students’ physical, mental and social health and health-related behaviour, as well as related factors, such as social relations, studies, subsistence and the use of health services. The survey also focused on special themes, such as experiences of bullying, persecution and violence, prolonged sitting, sexual orientation, the use of well-being mobile applications, the coordination of studies and family life, as well as teeth grinding.

The need for topical research information is highlighted, among other things, in the current health and social services reform, which will also affect the provision of health services to university students.

“Development work must be based on research data,” says Katariina Poskiparta, Managing Director of FSHS. “We now have comparable data on the health, ability to study, and well-being of university students over a period of 16 years, and the same data regarding students of universities of applied sciences over a period of eight years.”

Student health trends from 2000 to 2016 are available here (in Finnish).

The overall response rate in the 2016 Finnish Student Health Survey was 31%, that of students at universities of applied sciences 25% and that of students at universities 37%. The response rate among male students was 22%. Except for the underrepresentation of male students, the respondents were representative of the target group.

The Finnish Student Health Survey is part of the Finland 100 programme in 2017.

More information of the 2016 survey is available here.