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Tips for College Health and Safety

Group of college studentsGoing to college is an exciting time in a young person’s life. It is a time for gaining new knowledge and experiences, both inside and outside the classroom. Here are a few pointers for college students on staying safe and healthy.

Eat healthy and engage in regular physical activity.

  • Choose your plate. Follow an eating plan with a variety of nutritious foods. Avoid foods that are high in calories, saturated fat, and reduce the amounts of sugars and salt in your diet. Be aware that beverages may be adding extra calories.
  • Stay active. Adults need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of physical activity each week. Regular physical activity can reduce your risk of heart disease and some cancers. Be creative about ways to get in exercise like walking across campus instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and working out with a friend, or joining an intramural sports team.

Stay safe.

  • Manage stress and maintain balance. A few ways to manage stress are to get enough sleep (7 to 8 hours a day), avoid drugs and alcohol, connect socially, and take time for yourself. Seek help from a medical or mental health professional if you are depressed or experiencing distress. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
  • Prevent sexual assault before it starts. Sexual violence happens on college campuses as well as in communities. Sexual violence refers to sexual activity when consent is not obtained or not given freely. More than one in three (37%) female rape victims were first raped between the ages of 18 and 24. [282 KB] Students should know their rights, and seek help immediately if they or someone they know is the victim of violence.
This infographic outlines key statistics on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among youth.

Sexually Transmitted Infections Among Young Americans
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Prevent sexually transmitted infections.

  • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections and know your status. You can prevent sexually transmitted infections. They are also treatable, and many are curable. Half of all new sexually transmitted infections occur among people under the age of 25. College students and others who are sexually active should get tested for STDs and HIV to know their status and protect themselves and their sexual partners.

Avoid substance abuse.

  • Know the dangers of binge drinking and limit alcohol. Binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks for women or five or more drinks for men over a short period of time. About 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks. Binge drinking is a factor that increases your chances for risky sexual behavior, unintended pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, car crashes, violence, and alcohol poisoning. Learn more about alcohol use and health.
  • Don't smoke. Among cigarette smokers, almost all (99%) first tried smoking by the age of 26. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many diseases and affecting the health of smokers in general. Quitting smoking has immediate as well as long-term benefits for you and your loved ones. If you don't smoke, don't start. And if you do smoke, quit. For support in quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
  • Avoid illicit drugs. More people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any year on record. In 2014, about one in five (22%) of those aged 18 to 25 years reported use of illicit drugs [94 KB] in the past month. Learn more about types of commonly misused or abused drugs and call 1-800-662-HELP to get help for substance abuse problems.

If you or a friend is struggling with a health or safety problem, you can:

  • Talk to someone you trust for support.
  • Visit your college health center or local clinic or hospital.
  • Contact the campus or community police if your or someone else's safety is threatened.
  • Page last reviewed: August 8, 2016
  • Page last updated: August 8, 2016
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