An analysis of student lifestyles was carried out by researchers at the University of Vigo to evaluate how much students drink, whether or not they take illegal drugs, their diet and how much exercise they do. The results of the study published by the Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health indicates that a surprising number of students engage in unhealthy behavior, especially excessive drinking.

One of the main authors, Jose M. Cancela said: The amount drunk per unit of time is higher among women. In other words, even though male students drink more often, females do so more intensively in shorter periods of time, which is known as binge drinking.”

A total of 985 students of various different courses at the University of Vigo were randomly selected to be interviewed. The results were slightly shocking and highlighted the extent of alcohol and substance abuse among students, especially women.

Of the men interviewed 41.7% admitted to living a sedentary lifestyle compared to 51.2% women. Women were also found to do a lot less exercise than men with only 20.9% of women doing physical exercise compared to 38.6% of men. Men took illegal drugs more often than women.

The researchers note:

“We were also surprised by the high consumption of illegal drugs among university students – 44.9% of men and 30.9% of women – which we understand could lead to significant future health problems, mainly related to the nervous system.”

An irregular attitude to food was apparent in 8.8% percent of men and 16.6% of women. Students who took subjects like education were more likely to have an irregular attitude to food than students who took subjects such as health (19.2% vs 6.3%).

In 2008 universities across Spain set up a Healthy University Network which promoted healthy living for students across the country. The researchers believe that this was just a first step and that healthy habits should be encouraged as part of study plans.

Cancela concludes, “In the light of the results, training and information courses are required in these areas, together with healthy leisure – not just sports facilities – to set up university guidance services for a healthy student lifestyle

The reason why some people are more vulnerable to alcohol than others was identified in a study published in PNAS. The gene called RASFR2 was found to regulate the predisposition to drink and influence the activity of mesolimbic dopamine neurons. This along with environmental factors, and other genes, is thought to be the reason why some people drink a lot more than others.

The affects of drinking alcohol as a student have been identified in a previous study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. They found that students who binge drink have worse attention and visual working memory processes than those who don’t and require much more effort to carry out certain tasks.

Written by Joseph Nordqvist