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IU Health & Wellness: Back-to-campus issue

Research and insights from Indiana University

Aug. 30, 2011

IU Health and Wellness for August has a back-to-campus theme:

Happiness: All in who you know, goals
Sexual health shouldn't be left to chance
Indoor air quality: Nothing to sneeze at
Drunkorexia: Starving for a drink
Talking, texting your way into an accident or near miss

Happiness: All in who you know, goals. An Indiana University study that compared strategies used by extroverted college students and their less socially inclined peers found that happy people who are less outgoing relied less on partying and drinking to be happy and more on connections with family and friends or cognitive strategies, such as positive thinking. "You don't have to go out and party to be happy. That's the thing students feel they need to do, particularly when they're new to campus," said Bernardo J. Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast. "But, it's critical to maintain contacts with family, with friends and like-minded individuals with whom you feel some sort of meaningful connection. That could be other people in clubs that you belong to, like the accounting club, astronomy club . . . people you play intramural sports with." A second study, also conducted by Carducci, found that college students who are goal-oriented also tend to be happier than their less focused peers. "When you look at what these people do differently, people who strive to reach personal goals, they engage in more purposeful leisure, rather than sitting around and watching television," Carducci said. "They don't go clubbing as much as the others. They spend more time on what we call spiritual reflection. They write in journals. These are the kinds of people who tend to be more happy. These also are the people who mostly graduate from college."

About the studies:

  • Carducci's study "Self-Selected Strategies for Seeking Happiness by Individuals with High Happiness and Low Social Affiliation: A Look at Being HHIPe" was discussed in August at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting. Co-author was Rebecca S. Moody, an IU Southeast undergraduate psychology major. The study "Instrumental Goal Pursuit as an Individual-Difference Dimension in the Seeking of Subjective Well-Being" was discussed in June at the Biennial Meeting of the Association for Research in Personality. Co-author is Benjamin D. Traughber, an IU Southeast undergraduate psychology major.
  • Both studies involved 337 undergraduate students who completed an online survey that measured aspects of happiness, social affiliation, and drive to reach goals. The survey included the Satisfaction with Life Scale, Positive/Negative Affect Scale, and a 44-item Survey of Happiness Strategies.

Carducci said it would be useful for student advisers to know where students rate on Instrumental Goal Pursuit. "With this measure, you can look at people who are low and realize you need to keep an eye on them," Carducci said. "They might need help learning how to develop goals. They might need help learning how to delay instant gratification."

The studies are part of the IU Southeast Happiness Project, which is looking at the relationship between happiness and student achievement and retention. For more information about the Shyness Research Institute, visit

Carducci, a professor of psychology, can be reached at 812-941-2295 and Top


Sexual health shouldn't be left to chance. For college students, back to school readiness goes far beyond gearing up with laptops, school books, a map of campus, or dorm room furniture. College students from freshmen to seniors -- even those who may not be planning to have sex any time soon -- need to take care of their sexual health.

Debby Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, offers these tips:

  • Wait until you're ready. There's a lot of advice out there about avoiding the pressures of sex. Equally important is to figure out what "ready" means for you. When you're in love? Married? Engaged? With someone you trust? After you've learned all you can about birth control, preventing sexually transmissible infections (STI) and are in a relationship? People's "ready point" varies from one individual to another. Once you understand what you need to feel safe and comfortable enough to open yourself to pleasurable sex, you'll have a better sense of when to say "No" -- and, ultimately, to say "Yes."
  • Update your status. Your STI status, that is. If you've ever had oral sex, vaginal sex or anal sex, then it would be wise to get tested for STIs such as chlamydia (the most common bacterial STI in the U.S., and prevalent among those ages 15 to 24), gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV. Leaving certain STIs untreated can lead to various health problems, including infertility for both women and men. Condoms provide excellent protection against most STIs, so keep some around and make sure to use them if and when you have sex. Adding water-based lubricant to the condom can increase pleasure.
  • Plan ahead. Even though many college students abstain from sex for personal or religious reasons, it is true that most college students choose to have sex with a partner -- or more than one partner -- during their college career. Sex could be greatly improved, and be enormously safer, if more men and women thought ahead. If you're already sexually active, or thinking about becoming sexually active in the next year, you should also seek out a wellness exam from your healthcare provider. Women: ask about a gyn exam. Men and women both: ask about the HPV vaccine, STI testing, and birth control options. Also, keep a handful of condoms around your dorm room. Even if you don't end up using them any time soon, they tend to have long expiration dates -- or your best friend or roommate may need one.
  • Party within reason. Going to parties is a common part of the college experience -- and they can be a lot of fun. Make sure to follow common sense, though: Go with a group of friends and make sure to leave with that same group of friends. Never walk home alone. Never let your friends walk home alone (especially if they've been drinking or taking drugs). Keep an eye on your drink (yes, that means taking it to the bathroom with you). Also, load your phone with numbers of friends you can rely on as well as a reliable taxi service or "safe ride home" service provided by your fraternity, sorority, university, community and/or health center.

College is a great experience for many men and women. Herbenick said many people use this time to date, to better understand or explore their sexuality, to come out to family or friends, to learn how to communicate about sex with a partner and to generally make good memories.

"By having safer, smarter sex you're also likely to have better sex -- if and when you make that choice," she said.

Herbenick can be reached at 812-855-0364 and Top


Indoor air quality: Nothing to sneeze at. For college students, their dorm room or apartment might be "home, sweet home" -- but the air they breathe inside their homey sanctum could be causing illness or breathing problems. Cramped or shared living quarters can make questionable air quality even worse when poor cleaning habits, building features that serve as "sinks" for pollutants, and even modern "green" designs expose students to increased levels of unwanted airborne substances and common allergens. These can include mold, tobacco smoke, radon, pet dander, volatile organic compounds and other substances. "When multiple residents share a house or apartment, they're at risk for bacterial and viral infections caused by the close quarters," said Larry Newton, a certified industrial hygienist and assistant director of the Industrial Hygiene Lab at Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. "Humans shed bacteria such as Staph, an opportunistic organism that can cause mild to severe illnesses including MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Breathing problems can be aggravated. Simple hygiene, like routine light cleaning, can make a big difference. You don't need to be phobic about it, just pick up and clean up after yourself." Wallboard, said Newton, can act as a sink for pollutants because the wallboard can absorb odors and chemicals and re-emit them later when the conditions, such as temperature and humidity, are right. Allergens such as mold and pet dander can get stuck in cracks found in walls, carpeted floors and behind fixtures. Weatherization and other environmentally friendly retrofitting can make it more difficult for fresh air to come into a house and for stale or polluted inside air to leak out. Newton compares it to trying to breathe with a plastic bag over one's head. Kevin Slates, clinical assistant professor and director of the Industrial Hygiene Lab, said the risks of poor indoor air quality in residential and commercial dwellings are often overlooked because the health symptoms are not acute. "The EPA cites poor indoor air pollution as one of the Top 5 health risks," Slates said. "As a result, we are seeing an increase in the diagnosis of adult onset asthma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 34.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma. In addition, 9.6 percent of children have asthma."

Slates and Newton provided the following tips for improving indoor air quality:

  • Put away or throw away things that attract rodents or bugs, such as food, dirty dishes and clothes that need to be washed.
  • Mold will show up where there is a water leak, so any water leaking into the residence or excessive moisture should be addressed right away. Cabinets, drawers and closets that are rarely used can accumulate moisture, stale air and other pollutants, so they should occasionally be aired out. Too much humidity can encourage mold growth, so it should be reduced to acceptable levels (less than 60 percent).
  • Residents should open windows and doors at least once a year to air out their dwellings.
  • Contaminants in air ducts usually accumulate where the supply-air duct curves sharply up to the floor vent. Slates and Newton suggest removing the register and vacuuming the supply duct at that curve.
  • Vacuuming the supply-air ducts' curves in newly built residences is particularly important before turning on furnaces or air-conditioners, Newton said, because builders often sweep debris, such as fiberglass, gypsum dust, general debris and sawdust, into these ducts. If they are not vacuumed out first, the debris will be blown into the living areas of the residences.
  • Leave shoes and boots by the door so that allergens and contaminants that could be hitchhiking on the footwear are not spread throughout the residence.
  • Purses and backpacks should be kept off of the ground as much as possible, particularly in restaurants, to avoid picking up "riders," such as insects.
  • Kitchens and bathrooms should be cleaned at least once a week because roommates often share these spaces or items within these spaces. That red film that sometimes appears in toilets is bacteria, Newton said, and should be cleaned. Surfaces should be wiped with a cleanser to keep germs from spreading.
  • Air freshening sprays generally mask odors but do not eliminate the bacteria, mold or other substances causing the odor.
  • Change furnace filters according to manufacturers' instructions. Consider using a HEPA filter in the furnace and purchasing a HEPA-filtering vacuum cleaner. Residents can check with the maintenance staff or supervisor of their apartment buildings to see how often filters are changed.
  • Carpeting can serve as a reservoir for allergens and other particulates, so residents should consider solid floor surfaces.

Slates and Newton said everyone should be concerned about inside air quality, but children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, asthma and serious allergies are more likely to feel the effect of poor inside air quality.

Slates can be reached at 812-856-3766 and Newton can be reached at Top

Drunkorexia: Starving for a drink. Binge drinking and eating disorders are rife on college campuses. The combination of disordered eating practices and binge drinking behavior, "starving all day to drink at night," can cause a range of health problems. Young women (and some men) beginning their college experience are concerned about body image and may worry about gaining the "freshmen 15." They might engage in calorie-sparing eating or even go so far as to fast prior to weekend drinking parties with the hope of not gaining weight. "They also might abuse caffeine, laxatives, diuretics, prescription stimulants or prescribed or over-the-counter medications to suppress appetite, to purge themselves or to increase their metabolism," said Carole Nowicke, research associate at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at Indiana University. "These young men and women in most cases have not been diagnosed as suffering from anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa but are engaging in extreme calorie restriction, and/or purging before drinking." Not eating or drinking non-alcoholic beverages prior to a night out, says Nowicke, can cause dehydration, which is further exacerbated by the diuretic properties of alcohol. Drinking on an empty stomach allows alcohol to enter the bloodstream much faster than it would if it were arriving on top of a full meal. Nowicke said extreme dietary restriction, bulimia or anorexia, may lead to weakness, dizziness, fainting, low blood pressure, constipation, bone thinning, hair loss, growth of fine body hair ("lanugo"), loss of tooth enamel and decay, sleeping problems, electrolyte imbalances, and problems with the heart, kidneys and liver. Eating a meal before indulging, especially food containing proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, will slow the absorption of alcohol as it passes through the stomach and into the small intestine and then is metabolized by the liver.

Some facts about disordered eating, alcohol and binge drinking:

  • A 2010 study of freshmen at a Southeastern University found that 14 percent were restricting calories prior to drinking. Six percent of the freshmen were trying to avoid gaining weight and 10 percent were trying to accentuate the effects of alcohol.
  • A 2001 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) found that individuals with eating disorders were up to five times likelier to abuse alcohol or illicit drugs, and those who abuse alcohol or illicit drugs are up to 11 times likelier to have eating disorders.
  • There may be little gender difference in calorie restriction behavior prior to binge drinking, although some males indicate that they may spend less money on food to save funds for alcohol purchases, as well as wishing to feel the effects of alcohol more quickly.
  • Very thin celebrities who gain media attention by appearing inebriated in public may seem glamorous to young men and women and encourage similar behavior. Pro-anorexia websites publish photographs of these celebrities for "thinspiration."
  • "Drinking games" encourage binge drinking by design; the objective is not to socialize with friends but to get quickly inebriated.
  • A "drink" is half an ounce of alcohol: One 12-ounce beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or one 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits.
  • A "binge is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 gram percent or above. For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming five or more drinks (males), or four or more drinks (females) in about two hours.
  • A wine spritzer, reduced-calorie beer, or one ounce of liquor mixed with a zero calorie soft drink may be slightly under 100 calories, but margaritas, mudslides, Long Island iced teas, chocolate martinis, pina coladas, and "hard" lemonades can range from 200 to more than 600 calories per serving. Therefore, 4-6 mixed drinks can easily add up to more than 2,000 calories, the same amount as eating an extra-large cheeseburger or having a large milkshake.
  • As many as 40 percent of college students binge drink.
  • About 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.
  • Approximately 92 percent of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the last 30 days.

Nowicke said the combination of eating disorders and substance abuse is not a new phenomenon, but the shorthand term "drunkorexia," which is not a recognized psychological term, describes a certain type of drinking behavior in connection with unhealthy dieting. It has obtained recognition in the media for encompassing the issues of binge drinking and anorexia/bulimia. She said the strategy of not eating in favor of consuming alcohol might fail to keep weight off because many popular mixed drinks are high in both fat and calories.

Nowicke can be reached at 812-855-1237 and The IPRC is part of the Department of Applied Health Science in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. Top

Pedestrian Safety

Talking, texting your way into an accident or near miss. The nagging allure of mobile devices and social media can take its toll by putting distracted pedestrians and drivers in harm's way on and around campuses. "We are so hung up on answering that cell phone regardless, instead of letting it roll over, even if it puts us in a dangerous situation," said Larry Newton, assistant director of the Industrial Hygiene Lab at Indiana University's School of Health Physical Education and Recreation. "I've seen people reach into a pocket while driving to answer a phone." IU safety experts conducted a survey to learn more about the frequency of vehicular and pedestrian accidents on campus -- and the number of near misses. Kevin Slates, clinical assistant professor and director of the Industrial Hygiene Lab, said almost half (49 percent) of the 271 people surveyed reported nearly hitting another vehicle while driving on campus. More than half (55 percent) reported almost hitting a pedestrian while driving on campus. Sixteen percent reported almost being hit as a pedestrian. "I think 16 percent is too high," Slates said. The use of mobile devices while driving was common. Seventy-two percent of the people surveyed reported talking on their cell phones while driving all, most or some of the time; 34 percent reported texting while driving all, most or some of the time. Resisting the urge to talk on the phone or text while driving might seem obvious, but Slates and Newton also urge people to put away their mobile devices while walking on sidewalks, too, because of the potential for them to step in front a vehicle, or someone merely walking or riding a bicycle.

Here are some other tips for avoiding accidents:

  • The majority of pedestrian-related fatalities occur in non-designated crossing locations. Slates and Newton urge people to use designated pedestrian crosswalks to increase their visibility and safety.
  • Stop vehicles when school buses stop, flash their lights and display their traffic signs.
  • Cycling is not a time for socializing and chatting, they say. When riding in bike lanes, cyclists should travel in single file. In their survey, only 43 percent of people surveyed believed that vehicle drivers respect the rights of bicyclists and share the road according to the law.

The preliminary study findings were presented at the American Society of Safety Engineers annual professional development conference in Chicago this summer. Traffic safety research assistants Devin Kenny and Richard Southern contributed to the study. Kenny and Southern are American Society of Safety Engineers Student Sections members.

Slates can be reached at 812-856-3766 and Newton can be reached at Top

For additional assistance, contact Tracy James, University Communications, at 812-855-0084 and