• Ion IONESCU Professor, A.I.Cuza University, Iasi
  • Elisabeth SPITZ Professors, University of Lorraine, Université de Paris V René Descartes, Université de Metz
  • Barbara BUCKI Professor, Institute Health & Behaviour, University of Luxembourg - Research Unit INSIDE, Walferdange
  • Nearkasen CHAU Professor, Université Paris-Sud, Université de Paris V René Descartes
  • Michèle BAUMANN Professor, Corresponding author, University of Luxembourg


Students, Europe, Physical and mental health, Stress, Substance abuse, Health promotion


Background: Students at many European universities are in poor health and have unhealthy lifestyles. This study assessed and compared physical and mental health, substance use and preventive behaviour among Polish and Romanian students versus students from France, a longer-standing member of the European Union. Methods: Four months after the beginning of the academic year, French (Metz), Polish (Katowice) and Romanian (Iasi) first-year students of human and social sciences volunteered to complete an online self-reported questionnaire in their native language. The data were analysed using the age and sex adjusted odds ratios (OR) computed with logistic models and analysis of variance controlling for age and sex. Results: 41.9% of French students, 79.2% of Polish students and 48.2% of Romanian students were aged 20 years or over, and 58%, 82% and 87% respectively were female. Compared with French students, Romanian and Polish students experienced more stress/psychological distress, received less social support, and smokers smoked more intensively (ORs about 2.3). Drunkenness, impaired physical health or morale and suicidal ideation were more frequent (ORs 1.5-1.8) while tobacco use was less frequent (0.34) among Polish than among French students. Being uneasy, wanting to cry, having financial problems, and impaired physical health or morale were more frequent (ORs 1.5-4.9) among Romanian than among French students, in contrast to drunkenness (0.43). Both not using a motorcycle/cycle helmet and drink driving were less frequent among Polish students (ORs 0.06 and 0.47, respectively). Romanian students less frequently used tranquillisers (0.07) but were more likely not to use a condom during sexual intercourse (2.06). Finally, French students more frequently reported feeling isolated or dissatisfied with their integration into university. Conclusion: Poor health, substance use and lack of support were common but the risks greatly differed between Polish, Romanian and French students. There is a need to help students solve their integration problems and material difficulties. Health promotion on campus should provide appropriate advice, particularly for individuals at risk that takes account of the socio-economic and cultural context.

Author Biographies

Ion IONESCU, Professor, A.I.Cuza University, Iasi

Department of Sociology and Social Work,

Nearkasen CHAU, Professor, Université Paris-Sud, Université de Paris V René Descartes



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