High school, and then of course college, can be immensely stressful periods of change. They’re also two important turning points where health habits begin to be established after which they might persist for a long time. For these two reasons (and many more), we firmly believe every high school and college-aged student deserves and needs to have access to a health coach for a chance to jumpstart a healthier, happier life.
The data doesn’t lie-–this is a necessity. The U.S. Surgeon General declared an adolescent mental health crisis in 2021 and between 2012 and 2022, the number of adolescents and young adults with anxiety and depression more than doubled. Beyond mental health, body image and cyberbullying, data surrounding substance use and sexual health are also causes for concern.
We compiled the most important statistics within our recent Deep Dive as well as stats supporting why health coaching can be so pivotal at this life stage. In today’s blog, we break things down to five of the most important ways health coaches can intervene to support better health and life outcomes and implore every educator to petition their schools, colleges or universities to introduce health coaching to students (email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to chat about this!).
Manage schedules (and stress).
Starting in high school and only compounding in college, students begin to experience more intense school schedules, demanding coursework and pressure to start determining who they are and what they want to become. All of this leads to immense stress that some adolescents have never experienced before in this capacity. In fact, a recent survey revealed 55% of higher education students considered dropping out of their coursework due to emotional stress.
Health coaches can help students evaluate their commitments, building schedules that address their responsibilities while baking in time for personal care, spending time with family, and supporting their health. They can introduce tools like habit stacking to ensure these schedules are not only manageable, but also become almost automatic. Most importantly, they can identify signs of stress as soon as they arise and impart techniques to keep stress at bay, like setting time boundaries for work, setting realistic expectations, and encouraging them to ask for help as soon as they need it. By working together with health coaches to manage both schedules and stress, not only are students liable to be happier and healthier, but they’ll also feel better equipped to achieve more through their education.
Establish healthier eating habits.
Especially among college students, where many experience more autonomy than ever before, healthy eating habits are incredibly difficult to establish. Cost, availability/access, and stress might impede on healthy eating decisions, leading to poor nutritional choices throughout the day. According to the latest data, more than half (56%) of US teens and adolescents have a poor quality diet. What’s more, unhealthy expectations perpetuated by social media might impact their relationships with food, leading to increasingly disordered eating.
Once again, health coaches can have a long-lasting and important effect on the way students think about food and the food choices they make. They can work with students to identify unhealthy eating behaviors and offer solutions to incorporate healthier, affordable, and accessible choices. They can encourage smart snacking, provide alternative opportunities for stress eating impulses, and help students reformulate the ways they think about food and its connection to body image.
Get better sleep.
We’ve said this countless times and we mean it—better sleep is key to optimal health. Starting in high school and again, furthering in college, poor sleep habits can begin to rear their ugly heads.This is an absolutely crucial time to intervene so that students might achieve better health outcomes (and better academic outcomes, as well!) and so that they can set a healthy sleep foundation for the future.
Through active listening and other science-backed techniques, health coaches can work closely with students to assess their sleep habits and figure out what might need to be changed. Together, they can craft and adhere to a healthier night routine, learn to prioritize sleep among other responsibilities, and understand how to better navigate conversations with roommates around sleep and sleep needs. In a recent study, 80% of students improved their sleep habits after working through a coaching program.
Support mental health.
By and large one of the most undeniably important reasons every school should consider providing access to a health coach is because they can be critical resources for students struggling with their mental health. Between 2012 and 2022, almost half of high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, including 57% of girls and 69% of LGBTQ+ students. Nearly 1 in 3 high school girls seriously considered suicide—a 60% increase from a decade ago. This mental health crisis among our most vulnerable youth is undoubtedly ongoing, and health coaching can help turn things around.
Health coaches can lend a listening ear, but more-so can offer strategies to decrease mental health risks. Coaches might leverage positive psychology to increase self-efficacy. They might help students incorporate stress management techniques to mitigate feelings of overwhelm. They can encourage students to connect more with their peers and ideate on ways to get involved in their communities in fulfilling ways. In the latest research, health coaches have already shown strong results—42% of students reported improvements in anxiety and 40% reported improvements in depression when working with a health coach.
Set & achieve meaningful goals.
Goal setting and achievement is foundational to lasting self-efficacy—something we often see teens and adolescents struggle with at this life stage. Not only can health coaches help students craft goals related to their academic success, but also they can support in identifying, crafting, and achieving goals that spark lifelong passions or otherwise make students feel fulfilled and happy. On top of supporting optimal physical and mental health, this is often an overlooked but gamechanging benefit to working with a health coach.
The latest data points to strong results. When working through a health coaching program, 83% of students achieved health & wellness goals and 96% recommended a health coach to peers. Not only was there a near 100% success rate among students achieving pre-set health and wellness goals, but nearly all recommended a health coach to their fellow students. This statistic, alone, is one of the single most encouraging of the latest data. Not only do students deserve a health coach, but they very much want one.
Here at YourCoach, we’re working tirelessly to make health coaching more accessible to the global population by 2030 (our ambitious but very much possible mission!). We recognize students are one of the most critical components to this mission and are excited to be offering personalized health coaching services to high school and college students. If you’re an organization or school that’s interested in bringing health coaching to your young adult population, send us a line at email@example.com .