Coddled freshers suffer malnutrition and bad health

September 21, 2001

Students arriving at university for the first time can expect to become malnourished and suffer a general decline in their health and hygiene, according to experts, writes Cherry Canovan.

They may also be unable to look after their own health and either pester doctors with trivial ailments or ignore potentially serious problems.

Tom Frewin, who treats students at the University of the West of England, said some students arriving at university were still dependent on their mothers to make them brush their teeth, give them clean clothes and even prompt them to have regular bowel movements.

"It might never occur to them to take paracetamol," he said. "Self-medication is normally done through parents, so they can get more ill because they don't know quite what to do."

He said that poor nutrition due to reliance on convenience foods was also a problem, especially as work pressures diminished students' free time.

Claire Kober, National Union of Students' vice-president for welfare, said:

"Student life does have an effect on many students, in terms of physical and mental health. So many students are worried about their finances that they are perhaps saving on things such as food."

Another worry was that some students live in substandard housing that could have implications for conditions such as asthma.

In terms of mental health, Dr Frewin said a lot of students would have to cope with the break-up of their parents' marriage as well as the pressures of studying and keeping financially afloat.

"A lot of parents have kept together until the children get to college. It is devastating - I have seen people in quite bad states," he said.

Students worried about health issues can consult the website . It was set up by the health service at the University of Sussex and written by GPs.

* Stressed students at Huddersfield University are to be offered therapeutic massage sessions.

Dr Alan Shortt, one of the three GPs at the university health centre, said:

"It can be a temptation for doctors to prescribe medication but it is important to consider other treatments."

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