Leaving home

How can a tertiary education institution like ours encourage students to maintain healthy lifestyles?

When young adults first leave home they are faced with major lifestyle challenges such as time management, absence of existing social support structures, limited budgets, increased accessibility to alcohol, and more unhealthy food options. These factors could create a perfect storm of unhealthy behaviours, but how bad is it really, and what can be done about it?

Otago Polytechnic students were invited to participate in a study in 2017 to answer these questions. Richard Humphrey, a Principal Lecturer in Sport/Health/Exercise, Dr Liz Ditzel, a Principal Lecturer in Nursing, and Stuart Terry, organisational researcher, undertook the research. The survey asked students about their engagement with health services, levels of physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption, alcohol consumption and smoking status.

Data from 521 students - 9.1% of the Otago Polytechnic Dunedin student population - informed the following recommendations:

  • Tertiary education organisations should provide students, especially first year students, with information, guidance and ongoing support to promote healthy behaviours.
  • Basic health education can be included in what is taught to first year students in all study areas.
  • Students can be encouraged to use existing apps to monitor and maintain their physical health.

November 2018