The College Health Scare
Recent studies show that young people, especially college students, aren’t going to the doctor even when they need to.
By Riley Heruska, Austin College
You’re practically coughing up a lung, and your head feels like it’s being pulverized by a Looney Tunes sledge hammer.
Worst of all, you’ve got two exams and three papers due this week. What do you do? Most likely, you do what almost every college student in America does: You tough it out on your own. If you’re really dedicated to staying healthy, you might down some Mucinex or EmergenC, but in general, college students tend to shove illness under the rug and ignore its presence as much as possible.
Annual check-ups? Regular eye examinations? HIV tests? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
If you ask college students, the majority will admit that scheduling doctor visits of any kind ranks somewhere beneath “not failing X class” and “surviving campus drama.” Recent surveys have indicated that millennials, including current students, are more likely to resort to racing to an urgent care facility or emergency room at the last minute than they are to simply visit a local doctor preemptively. These emergency visits tend to be more taxing, both financially and emotionally, than simply contacting a general practitioner before the health problem becomes severe.
So, why are young people avoiding regular visits to the doctor and subjecting themselves to prolonged illnesses and emergency trips that can cost an arm and a leg? Well, there are a handful of reasons.
1. Concerns About Money
Trust me, I’ve definitely scrimped when it comes to paying for medicines. It’s always disheartening to feel yourself come down with a cold and know that you’re going to have to cough up the cash for meds, and the thought of visiting a doctor dredges up mental images of countless dollar signs.
Although most millennials can currently stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26, the anxiety about cost prevents many from seeking the healthcare they desire, and in some cases, desperately need. It’s tempting to assume whatever health issue you are facing will simply disappear over time, and in many cases, it will. Therefore, many students opt for crossing their fingers and risking it rather than seeking professional advice.
2. Millennials Are Busy Bodies
To visit a doctor, one must perform an arduous number of time-consuming tasks. Between calling to schedule an appointment, driving to the office, lingering in a creepily over-sanitized waiting room and then finally speaking to a doctor, the process can seem ridiculously drawn-out. Many college students would rather self-medicate and trudge through their misery than waste precious time on a visit to a general practitioner.
Another quick option is to visit an urgent care facility that takes walk-ins. Most twenty-somethings jam-pack their schedules with studies, extracurricular, social events and jobs. Who has the time to visit a doctor to ensure that a sore throat isn’t potentially life-threatening?
The issue is, seemingly harmless symptoms like a sore throat can sometimes pose serious threats. Illnesses like strep throat can start out simple, but if left untreated, can wreak havoc on your health. An ignored cough might seem annoying at first, but pneumonia and bronchitis are no strangers to the common college student. Therefore, many students end up visiting an urgent care center or the emergency room when their symptoms eventually get out of hand.
3. Young People View Health Differently
Recent research has indicated that millennials do not perceive their health like their parents and other generations do. Mental health has become more emphasized over the years, and 55 percent of millennials agree that a healthy mind leads to a healthy body.
Many college students and twenty-somethings also believe that the American healthcare system has too many issues and are therefore reluctant to engage with it. Millennials don’t want to handle healthcare like the past generations, which is understandable to some extent due to the general unrest America has faced concerning the subject over the past few years.
However, this mindset of disengagement leaves little room for preventive measures to protect the physical body, including keeping up with vaccinations and check-ups.
4. Online Doctors
Google is a college student’s BFF. There’s no question too bizarre for the comprehensive search engine that rests at everyone’s fingertips. Roughly 52 million Americans turn to the internet for health-related advice every year, and that number is steadily increasing. Why wait in a germ-covered environment to consult a hurried doctor in-person when you can simply list your symptoms to an online expert?
As amazing as the omniscient internet is with its endless supply of answers, there are some drawbacks to relying solely on your own research. I don’t know about you, but 90 percent of the time WebMD seems to indicate that I am on the brink of perishing due to some rare monstrosity of a disease or cancer.
It’s difficult (and somewhat impossible) to ascertain if the search results address your specific issue properly, and the number of Americans double-checking their findings with a licensed doctor is decreasing yearly.
Alarmingly, 28 percent of millennials reported that they would self-diagnose a lump on their neck, and 36 percent would even attempt to treat the lump without visiting a doctor. A LUMP. This is no pathetic headache or lethargy—it could easily be life-threatening in many circumstances.
Sometimes, Google simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to protecting your body from potential dangers.
According to several sources, urgent care centers are springing up around the country faster than you can say “achoo.” People of all ages are seeking healthcare that is both convenient and on-demand. Scheduling appointments with a doctor at the first hint of trouble seems unnecessary and somewhat archaic to many college students. Although every age group seems to be arranging fewer preemptive visits, millennials do so far less often than older generations.
The issue is that not every health problem can be treated as needed. By waiting until symptoms worsen, millennials potentially allow undiagnosed food allergies, infectious illnesses, sexually transmitted diseases and many other health risks to go untreated.
As a result, college students are faced with a question: Is visiting a doctor preemptively worth the cost, time, and energy every now and then? Many would say no, but perhaps millennials should start saying yes a little more often.