Sleepless on the mountain

March 10, 2005, vol. 32, no. 5
By Howard Fluxgold

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Those students sleeping in the back of the lecture hall may not just be bored with the subject on offer. They may be catching up on the sleep they missed the night before.

In a recent survey of student health issues, only about 12 per cent of responding SFU students agreed that they got enough sleep every day of the week to feel rested. About 13 per cent reported that they never got enough sleep to feel rested.

The national college health assessment web survey was administered last October by the health counselling and career centre (HCCC).

The assessment was developed by a U.S. not-for-profit organization and is used by 274 U.S. universities. It was recently adapted for Canadian students and four Canadian universities including UBC, Calgary and Memorial University have already administered it.

"Right now we can compare our data to data from U.S. colleges and universities, but as more Canadian universities begin to use the survey we'll have better Canadian data for comparisons," says Lynn Pelletier, director of HCCC.

Pelletier just received the survey results, and preliminary analysis shows that almost 60 per cent of SFU students report suffering from back pain, a considerably higher number than their U.S. counterparts.

Mental health was also a cause for concern as 20 per cent of surveyed SFU students reported being depressed to varying degrees.

As well, the survey found that repetitive stress injuries were twice as high among SFU students as their peer group in the U.S.

The survey also revealed that SFU students don't exercise as much as their peer group in the U.S. with about a third reporting they do no exercise each week.

But according to the survey, the majority of SFU students do not abuse alcohol and do not find that it affects their academic performance.

A similar result showed up when students were asked about their use of cigarettes and marijuana. The frequency of use was less than their comparative peer group in the U.S.

Pelletier says she plans to make presentations to campus leaders among students, staff and faculty to help publicize the survey results.

"We'll also be able to use the survey to better focus our programs and evaluate their success," says Pelletier. "It will allow us to put scarce resources where they are most needed."

Pelletier stressed the confidentiality of the survey. HCSS selected 4,000 students at random and invited them to participate.

About 1,100 responded and completed an email survey. However, the responses were numbered in a way that prevents identification of the person answering. "We went to great lengths to make sure that anonymity is guaranteed."

Pelletier hopes to eventually make the full results of the survey available to the campus community.

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