Taking care of your health and wellbeing at university

This webpage contains information to help you to manage your health and wellbeing at university.

Starting university is usually one of the best times of your life and is a positive experience for most students. Taking care of your wellbeing whilst at university is very important, and can have a big affect on your academic outcome. On this page, we look at other aspects of university life aside from studies, and how to overcome issues you might experience.

Socialising and relationships

Personal safety

Alcohol and drugs

Mental health difficulties

How Pharmacist Support can help

Socialising and relationships

Making new friends is often a big part of going to university. Even if you consider yourself to be an introvert, or are comfortable in your own company, having good friendships is important for your wellbeing. When we connect with others a cocktail of chemicals is released into our body which increases our short-term and long-term wellbeing. Take a look at our resources on staying connected with others and improving our social circles for inspiration!


For many students, living away from home for the first time may cause them to feel homesick. It is entirely normal to feel homesick. Some people feel homesick immediately, others may feel fine to begin with, but develop feelings of homesickness later in the year. Some of the signs of homesickness are:-

  • feeling sad and/or anxious
  • difficulty sleeping
  • lack of concentration
  • changes in appetite
  • excessive displacement activity, for example, drink, socialising and neglect of studies.

The Prospects website has some useful suggestions to help you settle easily into your university life. The website recommends taking simple steps such as decorating your room with familiar belongings and joining clubs and societies, for a positive impact on your mood. If you continue to feel homesick to the extent that you are frequently withdrawing yourself from participating in social and academic activities, then you may want to consider accessing your university’s counselling service. You could also speak to a tutor, student welfare officer or counsellor before you make any impulsive decisions such as deciding to leave university altogether.


It is possible to be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. Many first-year students can feel isolated and awkward at the start of their first term. Leaving behind family and friends is never easy and starting to build new friendships from scratch can be difficult.

Seeing other students having a good time and making new friends can often add to feelings of loneliness and alienation. For most students, this loneliness, much like homesickness, is only temporary. There are many things that you can do to change your situation. Be pro-active, make the effort to begin and/or join in conversations with your classmates, many of them are probably feeling lonely too. Join some clubs or societies that you are genuinely interested in.

However, beware of compromising your position in order to gain popularity or acceptance, remember that building meaningful relationships takes time.

Social anxiety

Everybody gets nervous occasionally, however, for some, the very idea of unfamiliar social situations can cause intense fear. Social anxiety is very disruptive to normal life, and university can exacerbate the symptoms. Social anxiety should not be confused with shyness. Symptoms include:-

  • dreading everyday activities such as meeting new people/talking in groups/eating and drinking with company
  • low self-esteem
  • misuse of drugs and alcohol to try to reduce anxiety
  • making excuses to oneself in order to avoid social situations.

For further information about social anxiety and where to go for help, see the NHS choices website.


Relationships can be a wonderful thing; however, combining the demands of a relationship with those of academic study can be tricky. Be wary of setting a model for the relationship you would like to have. There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ relationship. They cannot be prescribed by gender, sexual orientation or status. Healthy relationships are usually defined by qualities such as consideration, respect, shared interests and common goals. However, these are not instantly apparent. Good looks are clearly visible and therefore more easily quantified but are not an indicator of compatibility. Equally, people coming from similar cultural, religious or economic backgrounds will often have very different views. Unrealistic expectations of complete rapport can make any relationship formed seem unsatisfactory and ultimately cause it to fail.

Students who are unsure of their sexuality or need assistance with coming out or accepting their sexuality can contact the Lesbian, Gay and Trans (LGBT) Foundation. They offer a range of services including face to face counselling, email support as well as a telephone helpline. For further information, see the LGBT Foundation website.

A failed relationship can also lead to a loss of confidence; take some time to rebuild your confidence and self-esteem.  The Mind website has lots of great information on increasing self-esteem.

Sexual health

Going to university is an exciting opportunity and students often use it as a time to explore and develop new relationships. Students will need to take responsibility for their own sexual health and having all the facts about sexual health and safety and understanding where do go for support when things go wrong plays an important part in this. All universities offer support services, and many will offer a range of services including health checks, free condoms and counselling. NHS Choices has lots of information about STIs, contraception and unplanned pregnancy. For further information, see their website.

Personal safety

The risk of suffering from violence or aggression is very low; however, students need to be careful, in particular if they are in an unfamiliar city and sharing accommodation. Some important things to remember include:-

  • never take an unlicensed minicab
  • if you are on a blind date, ensure that you meet somewhere public and inform your friends
  • never leave your drinks unattended in pubs and clubs as they could be spiked
  • beware of hazardous places, such as riverbanks, after consuming alcohol or drugs
  • remember, alcohol and drugs can make you more vulnerable to persuasion, assault, misjudgement, accident, acts of bravado and cold.

For further information and a range of personal safety tips, see the Suzy Lamplugh website.


Alcohol and drugs

According to the NHS, students are more likely to drink, smoke and take drugs than the general population. It would seem that a combination of peer pressure, cheap student bars and the freedom of living away from home for the first time can all be contributing factors to the choices students make. The NHS has a variety of information for students, including an alcohol tracking tool to help you to keep tabs on how much you are drinking, help with stopping smoking and information on drugs and their effects. For further details, visit the NHS website.

Our Addiction Support Service helps to support those who experience problems with alcohol, drug, or other types of dependency. This service provides access to fully qualified addiction specialists, and all calls to the helpline are entirely confidential. If you have a dependency issue or if you know of a friend or colleague with a problem, you can contact the Addiction Support helpline direct for advice. Call our helpline on 0808 168 5132 or e-mail us on info@pharmacistsupport.org

Find out more about our Addiction Support Service

Mental health difficulties

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

As a society we are increasingly preoccupied with appearance. Images of ‘perfect celebrities’ can lead ordinary people to feel more dissatisfied with their appearance.

Whilst most people feel concerned about their personal appearance, for some it can turn into an unhealthy preoccupation, making it difficult for them to carry out day-to-day tasks and form meaningful relationships. Common signs of BDD include anxiety about perceived defects or flaws in appearance, for example, in relation to facial features, particular areas of the body or feeling that your body is out of proportion/lacking symmetry.

The main treatments currently recommended by the NHS are cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and Serotonergic anti-depressant medication. A great place to get help is the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation website.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders can affect anybody. Common misconceptions include the view that it is mainly women who are affected by eating disorders. However, men can also be affected by low self-esteem, body image and/or an obsessive relationship with food.

Eating disorders can affect anybody, at any age. You are never too young, or too old, to suffer from an eating disorder. Beating Eating Disorders (Beat) indicates that as many as 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder. Beat offer a variety of help, examples include two helplines, one for adults and one for young people, a UK wide network of support groups and a search facility to help people to find support services in their local area. For further information, visit their website.


Self-harm is a growing problem amongst young people in the UK. People often use self-harm as a means of coping with, or expressing emotional distress. There are many different ways in which a person can intentionally harm themselves, such as:-

  • cutting or burning themselves
  • poisoning themselves with tablets
  • misusing alcohol or drugs
  • deliberately starving themselves.

Self-harm is often accompanied by feelings of shame and fear of discovery. Many sufferers feel isolated and cut off from society. Help is available. The Harmless charity offers a variety of support including suggestions on coping strategies, a workbook and postal and email self-harm support.

If you're struggling at university, please reach out to us for support

This webpage contains information to help you to manage your health and wellbeing at university.

How Pharmacist Support can help

Our vision is for no one in our pharmacy family to face challenging times alone. At Pharmacist Support, we offer a range of free and confidential support services to people working and studying in pharmacy, including talking therapy through our Counselling and Peer Support service. The term ‘talking therapy’ covers all the psychological therapies that involve a person talking to a counsellor or therapist about their problems.

Listening Friends (peer support)

Our Listening Friends peer support service provides students the opportunity to talk anonymously and in confidence to a volunteer pharmacist. This may be about any stresses students may be facing with their studies.

Find out more about our Listening Friends service


At Pharmacist Support, we offer students up to twelve sessions of funded counselling. The service is run by an independent partner with trained counsellors.

Find out more about our Counselling service

Wardley Wellbeing Service

The Wardley Wellbeing Service is dedicated to supporting the wellbeing and mental health of our pharmacy family. Part of this service is the free Wellbeing Learning Platform which is for individual wellbeing learning and training. By signing up to the platform, you can access and follow a range of free online wellbeing workshops at a time that suits you, including Stress Management and Building Resilience, Time Management and Getting Mentally Prepared for Your Exams. 

Find out more and sign up for free

Further wellbeing support

Our mission is to champion the wellbeing of our pharmacy family, and mental health and wellbeing is one of our top priorities. On our website, you can find lots of resources, guidance and support for mental health and wellbeing on our website, including: 

  • Wellbeing self-study learning modules 
  • Downloadable and printable resources to use during your exam preparation
  • Tips and advice from your pharmacist family across the country 

Access free mental health and wellbeing support now

Top ten tips to manage wellbeing at university

It’s important to remember that your university experience should be a good one, you’re not there to compete for the highest grades or change to fit in. If you’re struggling with your wellbeing at university, this downloadable poster can be a reminder that you’ve got this!

View our top ten tips to manage your wellbeing 

This webpage was last reviewed in July 2023.

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