Psychological distress and lifestyle of students: implications for health promotion

Deasy, Christine, Coughlan, Barry, Pironom, Julie, Jourdan, Didier and McNamara, Patricia Mannix (2015) Psychological distress and lifestyle of students: implications for health promotion. pp. 77-87. ISSN 1460-2245


Poor diet, physical inactivity, tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption are major risk factors for chronic disease and premature mortality. These behaviours are of concern among higher education students and may be linked to psychological distress which is problematic particularly for students on programmes with practicum components such as nursing and teaching. Understanding how risk behaviours aggregate and relate to psychological distress and coping among this population is important for health promotion. This research examined, via a comprehensive survey undergraduate nursing/midwifery and teacher education students' (n = 1557) lifestyle behaviour (Lifestyle Behaviour Questionnaire), self-reported psychological distress (General Health Questionnaire) and coping processes (Ways of Coping Questionnaire). The results showed that health- risk behaviours were common, including alcohol consumption (93.2%), unhealthy diet (26.3%), physical inactivity (26%), tobacco smoking (17%), cannabis use (11.6%) and high levels of stress (41.9%). Students tended to cluster into two groups: those with risk behaviours (n = 733) and those with positive health behaviours (n = 379). The group with risk behaviours had high psychological distress and used mostly passive coping strategies such as escape avoidance. The potential impact on student health and academic achievement is of concern and suggests the need for comprehensive health promotion programmes to tackle multiple behaviours. As these students are the nurses and teachers of the future, their risk behaviours, elevated psychological distress and poor coping also raise concerns regarding their roles as future health educators/promoters. Attention to promotion of health and well-being among this population is essential. The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email:

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