Self-reported health and health behaviours of women students in an English and an American University : An explorative study
Although late teens and early twenties are generally perceived as healthy times of life, young adults are affected by serious health and safety concerns, including substance abuse, sexual health issues, road traffic accidents and suicides (Kleinert, 2007). During these years, young people are becoming independent of their parents and making life-changing decisions about their careers. Increasing numbers enter higher education, with participation rates approaching 50% in both the United States of America (USA) (National Center for Education Statistics) and United Kingdom (UK) (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills). Many students, however, face financial pressures and concerns about succeeding in a competitive job market, and struggle to follow health-enhancing behaviours, (such as engaging in physical activity, maintaining a nutritious diet, and choosing not to smoke), that affect their risk of chronic conditions in adulthood. Values and lifestyles established at this time may set future patterns, and the adoption of poor health behaviours has the potential to shorten lives (Harris et al, 2006). The transition to adulthood is likely to present similar challenges to young people in most societies, but reactions may vary depending on local cultural norms and institutional structures. Although complicated by differing contextual factors, international comparative studies have the potential to enable societies to learn from each other (Feacham et al., 2002; Quan and Smith, 2005). We conducted an explorative study to compare the self-reported health and health-related behaviours of university students in the USA and England. We present our methods and results, and discuss our findings with reference to systemic factors in each country.