New Delhi: A new study has found that maintaining a healthy body weight and staying positive and happy can help college students lead a healthy life despite the stress which comes as a part and parcel of college life. The research found that people who are optimists and stay happy are healthier overall and have a lower blood pressure and less depression and anxiety. The data, however, on the effect of weight and body mass index (BMI) on physical and mental health is rarely available, especially among college students, who suffer high rates of anxiety and depression and often neglect physical self-care and exercise.
The research was conducted by the teams from University of Michigan in US and Fudan University in China who had set out to learn the extent to which BMI and optimism affect physical and mental health of students.
The study conducted by the team was published in the Biomedical Journal of Scientific and Technical Research. The study concluded, as told by Weiyun Chen, associate professor at the University of Michigan, that a positive outlook and BMI both contribute significantly to good health among college students.
As part of the study, researchers had asked 925 students to rate four indicators of psychological well-being: hope, gratitude, life satisfaction and subjective happiness.
The researchers also recorded college students' BMI based on their self-reported body weight and height. The reserachers also asked the participants several questions about their sleep pattern and quality, and how often they felt healthy, energised, worthless, fidgety, anxious or depressed. The questions were designed to assess the participants' physical and mental well being.
Chen said that when taken together, the four psychological variables and BMI accounted for 41 per cent of the total variance in health. On individual level, subjective happiness had the most significant impact, followed by hope, and then BMI.
The researchers also found that gratitude and life satisfaction did not have a significant impact on overall health. The study also concluded that BMI was correlated with physical and overall health, but not with hope, gratitude, life satisfaction or mental health.
Chen said that in view of the intense academic pressure Chinese college students face, it was surprising to see the number of students who rated themselves happy and healthy.
Chen said that this only points to China's emphasis on well-being in schools. "They have structured, organised physical educations classes," Chen added.
She also said that it was not just fitness but a variety of things to meet the requirement of the different people. She said that schools in China realized that emphasis on education only was not good for overall health and there was a need to look after the wellness part too.
The findings from this study suggest that universities can design their wellness programmes creatively and establish wellness centres which focus on integration of body, mind, and spirit into a seamless unit.
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