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B o r s c R e p o r t
on the
National College Health Assessment
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B o r s c R e p o r t B o r s c R e p o r t
on the on the
National College Health Assessment National College Health Assessment

Presented October 7, 2010

Board of Regents Student Committee


Sam Sickbert ’11 Katie Tonn ’11
Chair and Student Observer Vice-Chair
Kaitlin Coates ’13 Leon Clark ’12
Editor/Publications Assistant Public Relations Coordinator

Class Representatives
Joe Paille ’11 Tom Fewer ’11
Patrick Boland ’12 Rod Hubbard ’11
David Segar ’12 Megan Kaszuba ’12
Kari Swanson ’13 Tenzin Kunsal ’13
in good, very good, or excellent health (92.2 % of students are in this bracket
nationally).
Nevertheless, it is no surprise that health-related issues arise from
time to time over the course of the school year. Factors that are influential
enough to affect students’ academic performance are of primary concern to any
In the spring of 2010, St. Olaf students participated in the ACHA-National
collegiate institution. Issues most frequently reported by St. Olaf students as
College Health Assessment II (NCHA-II). This assessment is a national survey 4
having academic impacts include anxiety, cold/flu/sore throat, participation in
administered by the American College Health Association (ACHA) to assist college
extracurricular activities, sleep difficulties and stress. It is important to note that
health service providers, health educators, counselors, and administrators in
the correlation between these difficulties and affected academic performance
collecting data about their students’ habits, behaviors, and perceptions on the
reflects the national pattern. In fact, with the exception of participation in
most prevalent health topics.1
extracurricular activities, these factors were reported at even higher percentages in
A total of 741 St. Olaf students, 40.2% of the student body, responded to the
the national data.
survey. The average age of respondents was 20.02 years. Females made up the
When comparing St. Olaf data to the national data, it will be necessary
majority of respondents to the survey with 66.9%, while only 32.9%2 were males.
to keep in mind that administration of the NCHA-II was not strictly limited to
Respondents were distributed fairly evenly across class year. 92.0% of students
small liberal arts colleges, but rather reached out to various types of schools,
identified themselves as heterosexual, 2.4% as gay/lesbian, 3.4% as bisexual, and
from small to large and private to public. Thus, approximately 16% of national
2.2% identified as unsure. On another note, 36.2% of students said they were in
respondents were graduate or professional students, which could feasibly be
a relationship, a relatively small percentage compared to the national average of
reflected in responses to many of the survey items. In the sections that follow,
53.5%.3
it is our objective to illuminate some of the defining characteristics, habits, and
The general health of the St. Olaf student population is impressive when
tendencies of the current St. Olaf student body. Good or bad, straightforward or
compared to national data. 74.2% of St. Olaf students rated their health as either
complex, these are some of the issues our campus faces, both as individuals and as
very good or excellent while only 59.9% of national respondents placed themselves
a community.
in one of these categories. Moreover, 95.5% of St. Olaf students reported being

1 American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health
Assessment II: Saint Olaf College Executive Summary Spring 2010. Linthicum, MD: American College Health
Association; 2010.
2 Cases where sex was missing were included in the calculation of percentages for this variable. 4 Academic impact is defined as: received a lower grade on an exam, or an important project; received a lower
3 All national data has been taken from the ACHA-NCHA II Reference Group summary for 2009: American grade in the course; received an incomplete or dropped the course; or experienced a significant disruption in
College Health Association. American College Health Association-national College Health Assessment II: thesis, dissertation, research, or practicum work.
Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2009. Linthicum, MD: American College Health Association; 2009.

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higher rates of depression in St. Olaf students, seeking treatment can be seen as a
positive step in maintaining personal mental health. Since a large majority of St.
Olaf students are covered primarily by their parents’ health insurance, compared to
the national rate of 63.5%, St. Olaf students may feel that they have greater access
to resources for treatment. Additionally, Boe House, which provides counseling
In most aspects of mental health, St. Olaf students responded similarly
to students, offers a convenient point of access for St. Olaf students. Similarly, as
to the national averages. However, as some responses indicated, mental health
a college of the church, St. Olaf may be more successful in promoting students’
problems can have a great effect on students. Notably higher percentages of St.
health because of the additional resource of campus pastors who are also available
Olaf students reported feeling very sad, overwhelmed or exhausted sometime in
to assist students in seeking help or discussing personal concerns.
the past twelve months than did the national reference group. St. Olaf students
A significant portion of students reported feeling very lonely. Over 68% of
also sought treatment for depression at a higher rate than the national average.
St. Olaf students have felt very lonely in the last 12 months, while only 57% of the
In addition to feeling lonely, students indicated greater stress from platonic
national reference group fell into this category. This discrepancy may be tied to the
relationships. Despite these concerns, St. Olaf students fared better than students
large percentage of St. Olaf students who have felt very sad over the past twelve
nationally in regards to stress from career-related issues and feelings such as
months (69.7% to 62.0%). These are startling numbers that certainly deserve
overwhelming anger.
future attention.
Results of stress seem to have a significant, detrimental effect on St. Olaf
A greater percentage of St. Olaf students (30.9% to 24.6%) also felt that
students. Over 92% of St. Olaf students reported feeling overwhelmed at any time
other social relationships (outside of family and intimate relationships) were
within the last 12 months, while 86.4% of students nationwide reported in the same
very difficult to handle. The disparity in stress from platonic relationships could
way. Exhaustion throughout the year was also reported at a higher level by St. Olaf
result from the high percentage of St. Olaf students not in a relationship (63.8%)
students than by students of other colleges, at 86.9% and 81.1% respectively.
relative to the national average (47.5%): Since friendships would likely have a
These higher values could be due to St. Olaf students’ high levels of
greater influence on the social lives of students not in a romantic relationship, the
involvement in extracurricular activities on campus and in the community. St. Olaf
increased concern could stem from greater investment in those relationships.
students reported far greater participation in varsity athletics (18.6% compared to
There are some categories of mental health in which St. Olaf students fare
8.0% nationally), club sports (18.2% to 10.4%), and intramurals (46.1% to 20.8%)
better than the national average: career-related issues, feeling overwhelmingly
than other college students. Students also consistently volunteer in the community
angry, and concern over family problems and finances. Results show that only
and participate in student organizations or clubs.
17.7% of St. Olaf students have had a difficult time handling career-related issues
More St. Olaf students sought treatment for depression (12.8%) than the
in the past 12 months, compared to the national average of 25.3%. One of the
national average (10.1%). This value was especially higher among male St. Olaf
explanations of this statistic could be that the ability of the Center for Experiential
students, who were almost twice as likely to seek treatment as their national
Learning (CEL) to facilitate learning that complements the St. Olaf curricula and
counterparts (11.5% compared to 6.3%). Although these numbers may indicate
guides students in the process of pursuing vocational goals. Programs such as the

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Career Connections Program, the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program,
and the Civic Engagement Program are some of the many opportunities students
have to pursue career interests while in school.
In the same vein, while 38.4% of the national reference group reported
feeling overwhelmingly angry within the past 12 months, 30.3% of St. Olaf students
Substance abuse, specifically alcohol use, has long been a hot-button issue
share this statistic. This particular result is promising when weighed against the
among St. Olaf students. According to the results of the survey, the majority of St.
data showing that St. Olaf students are more stressed than other students across
Olaf students, 67.9%, had used alcohol in the previous month. Despite St. Olaf’s
the nation. Since stress may increase one’s propensity for anger, St. Olaf students’
position as a dry campus, these values are nearly identical to the national average
ability to control their anger despite higher stress indicates that they are able to
of 68.8%. While a notable portion of the St. Olaf population, 22.3%, never uses
handle adverse situations in an adaptive manner.
alcohol, this value sits only slightly higher than the national average of 18.3%. In
Two other components of a student’s life that may affect mental health
general, the survey results indicate that the drinking culture at St. Olaf does not
are family and financial problems. Results show that 17.8% of St. Olaf students
differ significantly from most other American colleges.
have experienced family-related problems in the past 12 months, much lower than
Students were also asked how much they thought the typical student at
the national average of 26.3%. Also, 21.3% of the students at St. Olaf, compared
St. Olaf drinks. Very few respondents – less than one percent – claim that the
to 35.1% of national respondents have found finances difficult to handle. The
typical St. Olaf student refrains from alcohol. In fact, 98.5% of students believe
difference seen here may be due to the fact that the residential college environment
that the typical student had used alcohol at some point in the 30 days previous to
at St. Olaf relieves the burden of many everyday expenses that students in other
the survey, and 26.6% think that most students drink 10 to 29 days out of every
situations need to deal with.
month. In reality, the majority of students use alcohol zero to nine days per month,
indicating that a significant portion of surveyed students overestimated the amount
of alcohol use at St. Olaf.
Other substances, including cigarettes, marijuana, and tobacco from a water
pipe (hookah), showed similar differences between perceived and actual use. For
instance, approximately half of the student body thinks the typical St. Olaf student
has used marijuana in the last thirty days. In actuality, 72.4% have never used it. A
much higher percentage than what students expect, both at St. Olaf and nationally,
report having never or rarely used any of these substances. Generally, students’
perception of substance use and abuse is greatly exaggerated.
The skewed perception of substance abuse at St. Olaf may be caused by a
number of different things. For instance, substance use is often a part or even a

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focal point of social events, and those who use alcohol and drugs, especially in a
social setting, are more noticeable than those who abstain and leave the event. We
believe that students’ inflated perceptions of substance abuse could exert pressure
on students to use such substances more often. Students at St. Olaf seem to take many steps to ensure their health on
In response, student organizations like the Wellness Center have already campus. One indicator of this is the increased percentage of students on campus
begun efforts to promote alcohol awareness on campus. For instance, the Center who are vaccinated for various illnesses:
designated September 16 through 19 of this year as an alcohol-free weekend,
hosting a number of different events aimed toward providing alcohol-free
alternatives for students. Also, the college invited Erica Upshaw to discuss the
story of her brother’s death after a night of excessive drinking and substance abuse
with friends at a party. Upshaw ended her presentation by encouraging students
to drink responsibly and to look out for their peers. Such events are an important
component in the overall goal to educate students about the dangers of substance
abuse, especially alcohol.
The college’s Health Services makes it simple to be vaccinated for these
St. Olaf provides some weekend events that encourage students to engage
illnesses, as well as to obtain yearly flu shots, which are offered on campus for a
in activities that do not involve substance use such as movies, concerts and
small fee. The fact that 90.7% of students at St. Olaf (versus 74.7% nationwide)
dances. We encourage additional weekend programming and suggest that these
have had dental exams in the past twelve months is another example of our
beneficial events continue to be monitored for drugs and alcohol to maintain a safe
preventative health. An overwhelming majority of the participants in this survey,
atmosphere. Further, we recommend that the Wellness Center publish some of
97.9%, reported having health insurance, whether provided by their parents or
the results from these surveys in campus publications to increase awareness that
by St. Olaf. This percentage may explain St. Olaf’s high rating in these health
college activities do not need to revolve around drinking and other substance use.
categories.
Indeed, a significant number of students do not drink at all, and most students
drink less than their peers would guess. Sexual Behavior
Students reported the following number of sexual partners within the
last 12 months:

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Why the difference? Perhaps having numerous sexual partners is not multitude of athletic opportunities at St. Olaf. St. Olaf offers 27 intercollegiate
considered as socially acceptable here as other places. These numbers also reflect sports, which is more than any other Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
the fact that there is less reporting of involvement in serious relationships here at school. In addition to the General Education requirement of two physical education
St. Olaf than nationally. classes, St. Olaf offers numerous intramural sports. About two thirds of students
When asked whether they used contraceptives in the last 30 days for on campus participate in intramural sports. Skoglund Athletic Center, Tostrud
vaginal intercourse, 60.3% of St. Olaf students identified themselves with the Center, and other spots on campus provide the pool, climbing wall, indoor and
not applicable/didn’t use a method/don’t know category. This number is much outdoor basketball and volleyball courts, trails in the natural lands, and Green
higher than the national data, but it could be explained by the number of St. Olaf Bikes available to borrow, all valuable resources to ensure the physical health of the
students who have either never had vaginal intercourse or have not done so in the students.
last 30 days. This is 76.3% as opposed to 50% nationally. Contraceptive use is not
applicable to these students. General Safety
Nutrition Another fact demonstrating the smart choices St. Olaf students make is that
It appears that students on campus largely abide by good nutritional only 0.4% of students at St. Olaf reported driving after having 5 or more drinks in
practices. The percentage of students who eat 3 or more servings of fruits and the last 30 days while 4.1% did nationwide. The low percentage of students driving
vegetables at St. Olaf, 63.5, is much higher than the national average, 35.1%. Why after consuming 5 or more drinks may be due to the availability of Safe Ride and
such a huge disparity? One prominent reason is likely due to the abundance of Public Safety rides, the school’s Motor Vehicle Policy, and the small size of the
fresh fruits and vegetables Bon Appétit offers daily in the cafeteria. The cafeteria, campus. Safe Ride provides students with either a walking escort or vehicular
ranked 4th in the nation by the Princeton Review, purchases food from local transportation on campus and to areas immediately adjacent to the campus.
farmers, including STOGROW. STOGROW is a student-run organic farm, and When Safe Ride is not operating, Public Safety staff will provide transportation. In
last year Bon Appétit purchased $10,000 worth of produce from STOGROW. addition, when students “partied” or socialized during the last 12 months, 94.2% of
The emphasis on eating a healthy, balanced diet is reinforced daily, encouraging St. Olaf students used a designated driver, in comparison to only 82.8% of students
students to make the right choices. nationally.

Physical Activity
Exercise is another area where St. Olaf students seem to excel. In response
to the prompt do vigorous-intensity cardio or aerobic exercise for at least 20
minutes at least once per week, 72.5% of St. Olaf students answered yes as
opposed to 60.6% Nationwide. This difference is likely present because of the

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Student Government Association budgeting and funds. One solution may be
to form a group, perhaps a subcommittee of the Student Activities Committee,
dedicated solely to offering weekend activities (ideas might include baking projects,
trips to the Twin Cities, a Mall of America scavenger hunt, recreation sports
When looking over these results, the stark difference between perceived tournaments, etc.).
norms and the actual reported statistics stands out, specifically when considering Another eye-opening piece of information garnered from these survey
alcohol use. This disparity is puzzling, to say the least. Professor of Social results is the percentage of students feeling lonely. In a place where we consider
Psychology Dr. Minda Oriña suggests that this is likely due to our tendency as community to be one of our strongest characteristics, it is disappointing to
humans to cast ourselves in the best possible light; we like to think we share discover that so many individuals are experiencing such a degree of loneliness.
our negative traits (such as drinking too much) with others, and thus develop a We feel that these numbers should not be ignored, and would like to see further
false consensus in which we overestimate the degree to which others share our investigation in this area, whether carried out by BORSC or another group. The
own behavior, attitudes, or beliefs. Similarly, our own behavior will seem more NCHA question regarding loneliness is rather vague, so it would be necessary to
appropriate if we think everyone else (i.e., the ‘typical’ student) is drinking more determine under what circumstances students are lonely in order to target the
5
than we are. Dr. Oriña recommends that these statistics be incorporated into the problem.
college’s alcohol campaign in order to reveal misperceptions. Overall, the St. Olaf student population is vibrant and healthy. In order to
Although St. Olaf students do not drink as much as is generally thought, maintain and flourish, the college should create or promote existing institutions to
the fact remains that a considerable number of individuals are engaging in these help students deal with academic and social pressures.
behaviors. In light of data recently publicized by the college6 showing a drastic
jump in liquor violations over the last four years, we feel that emphasis needs to
be placed on making the presence of the non-drinking student population more
strongly felt. Consideration needs to be given toward increasing and/or diversifying
weekend programming. This may require examination of Residence Life and

5 A good deal of research has been dedicated to this very issue. Brian Borsari and Kate Carey describe the
situation well: “Many college students overestimate both the drinking behaviors (descriptive norms) and the
approval of drinking (injunctive norms) of their peers. As a result, consistent self-other discrepancies (SODs)
have been observed, in which self-perceptions of drinking behaviors and approval of drinking are usually lower
than comparable judgments of others.” (Borsari, B. and K. Carey (2003). “Descriptive and Injunctive Norms in
College Drinking: A Meta-Analytic Integration.” J Stud Alcohol 64(3): 331-341.)
6 The most recent Clery Act Report can be found on St. Olaf’s website at http://www.stolaf.edu/stulife/safety/
reports/cleryact.html.

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