Feeling fatigued, unhappy or anxious? While these may sound like a normal part of the college experience, you could just be dehydrated.
With summer approaching, Austin is beginning to get hot. When it gets hot, it’s important to drink water. But are UT students drinking enough of it?
Health authorities recommend drinking at least eight cups of water each day. However, after asking 34 random students, I found 58.7% of them drink less than the recommended eight cups. The Institute of Medicine recommends men drink 13 cups of water each day and women drink nine, which would put this percentage even higher.
Moreover, 75% of Americans experience “chronic dehydration,” and in a study published by Health Promotion Perspectives of 245 undergraduates, students consume far less fluid than the daily recommended average.
Students need to drink an adequate amount of water each day because of the negative physical and mental health effects of dehydration.
Dehydration has been known to have physical effects on the body. Headaches, nausea and fatigue are some common symptoms of dehydration.
Dehydration does not just affect people physically — it can have severe cognitive effects. A study by the Georgia Institute of Technology found that dehydration can affect people’s attention, coordination and ability to problem solve.
This study found that participants made more errors in attention-related tasks as the amount of water they received decreased.
Dehydration can also affect your energy level, which may surprise some students, said Brittany O’Malley, assistant director of prevention at the Longhorn Wellness Center.
“When people are thinking about energy, they’re thinking about maybe sleep or food, but hydration is a part of that as well,” O’Malley said. “Being a college student, having energy to complete all the things that you need to do in your life to be successful is important.”
In addition to brain function, dehydration can have severe effects on how people feel emotionally.
“(Dehydration) doesn’t just (affect) how you’re thinking, but also how you’re feeling in terms of mood,” O’Malley said.
Anxiety rates increase when it gets hot. This is caused by chemicals in the brain being off-balanced and affecting mood, which is partially a result of dehydration.
Journalism sophomore Lydia Wagner said that while she makes a conscious effort to stay hydrated, it is not always easy. She encourages others to make sure they stay hydrated because she recognizes the effect dehydration can have on mental health.
“It’s really hard to stay hydrated as a college student because you’re constantly running around,” Wagner said. “Being dehydrated is just one more (way) that college students don’t need to make their mental health worse.”
O’Malley said that the Longhorn Wellness Center has partnered with the Office of Sustainability to get more water bottle filling stations across campus, which promotes both sustainability and hydration. She also said the Center provides education on hydration through peer education workshops. But it doesn’t matter what steps the University takes if students are not using available resources.
Carrying around a reusable water bottle and tracking hydration by setting a goal are two ways students can stay hydrated, according to O’Malley. She also stressed that drinking water is not the only way to get hydrated — eating fruits and vegetables is another great way to maintain hydration.
With these accessible ways to stay hydrated, students can easily increase their water intake.
“Just like eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep (is important), hydration is just as healthy of a habit to build and maintain,” O’Malley said.
The effects of dehydration aren’t always obvious. However, they can build up and be devastating. Don’t forget to drink enough water daily.
Corwin is a journalism sophomore from Long Island, NY.