Comparisons of Risky Health Behaviors Between Male and Female College Athletes and Non-Athletes

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Recent data indicate disturbing trends in health problems in college students in this country. In addition, there is concern that athletes may be more at risk for certain health problems than are other student populations. We surveyed male and female athletes and non-athletes to compare the prevalence rates of alcohol behaviors, smoking and smokeless tobacco use, and disordered eating behaviors and body image dissatisfaction. We found that these behaviors differed by both gender and athletic status. However, the patterns are not consistent, with athletes being more vulnerable for certain risky behaviors and non-athletes being more vulnerable for others. Furthermore, these patterns also differ by gender. College administrators need to be aware of the different vulnerabilities that various populations face and be prepared to address different issues and treatment plans for male and female athletes and non-athletes.

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