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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Programs lower student mortality rates, study finds

College campuses have made a positive impact on student mortality numbers through effective public health service programs.

A study from the American Public Health Association showed college student mortality numbers are lower than those of same-age peers in the general population. Suicide numbers in college students are 47 percent lower and alcohol-related deaths are 60 to 76 percent lower, according to Dr. James Turner’s research on leading causes of death among college students. Turner is the executive director of the Elson Student Health Center at the University of Virginia and was the past president of the American College Health Association.

The fact that such mortality rates are lower speaks to the “effectiveness of education and interventions on campuses,” Turner said.

Results also showed the leading cause of death among college students between the ages of 18 and 24 is suicide, followed by non-alcohol vehicular accidents and alcohol-related accidents.

College campuses, including the UA, have resources such as residence hall advisers, deans, campus police and counseling and health services in order to combat these factors. These are people “who are trained and skilled in identifying students who are having emotional problems or substance abuse problems,” Turner said. It’s also helpful that most campuses don’t allow guns and have good security, he added.

David Salafsky, the director of Health Promotion and Preventive Services at Campus Health Service, said he agrees that college campuses have valuable public health programs for students.

“I think one of the conclusions, one of the takeaways (of the study), would have to be that these (services) really make a difference,” Salafsky said.

Campus Health Service employees pay attention to trends and they want to make sure programs “reflect the health issues that students are facing,” he said.

One of the factors playing a role in the decreased number of alcohol-related vehicular deaths is that many highly residential campuses have Greek Life systems close to the campus area, Turner said. Since students are living on campus or nearby, they don’t have to drive in order to socialize, he added.

“I think to say that college students are much, much more likely to have alcohol-related fatalities on the roads is not true,” Salafsky said. “Overall, it seems to be in line with what we see in the general population.”

College students seem to be doing what they should be to ensure they are driving more responsibly, he said. They tend to take the proper measures to prevent alcohol-related injuries or deaths.

“There’s been a real culture change over the years with that,” Salafsky added.

Turner also said the UA is a leader in some of the educational programming available for alcohol abuse.

“I think one of the messages here is that the work that colleges and universities do, (the support services, the public health efforts), have a real impact,” Salafsky said.

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