The Health Costs of Organizational Involvement

By Sarah MacKenzie

As I enter the last two weeks of my time here at Denison I can’t help but reflect on the ways I have spent my time on the Hill. I came to Granville not really knowing what I was interested in but I was sure ready to start something new and meet new people. I was lucky to meet wonderful, generous people within what I recall to be my first 24 hours on campus. Many of those individuals are still my best friends and will be for what I like to say, the foreseeable future. However, as I have been able to have some moments of reflection looking back on my time here, I can’t help but acknowledge the people that have contributed to my success outside of my tight knit group of friends.

Although I perhaps did not realize it in the moment, the people that I have met through my major and various organizational activities have enhanced my Denison experience greatly. Majoring in Political Science, working at the Knowlton Center, starting my own club and holding leadership positions in Women in Business and my sorority, I have been able to unconsciously cultivate very meaningful relationships with people that shared the same feelings of stress and constant business that filled our lives each day here at Denison. And although it has been extremely busy and there have been many, many hard days, I believe that is exactly the way to do it here.

Because I have been involved throughout my time at Denison I have often felt like I did not put a ton of energy or effort into the healthiest lifestyle. Being in a sorority and active social group led my drinking schedule to be a three-day-a-week extravaganza and most of the time I would prioritize that rather than exercising, eating well, or taking care of my mental health. That was all pretty consistent until this past fall when I was woken up by a tragedy in my life that required me to work extra hard each day to get out of bed. So, while I was running around, going through the motions, and crossing off my long list each day I realized that I was extremely unhappy and changes needed to be made. Thus, I really started to focus more on my mental and physical health which helped dramatically with my mood and general stability (I guess science is real?). And then when I got to my second semester, received a job offer, and passed down my torches, I was able to basically put all of my energy into my own happiness, and it feels really damn good.

As I reflect on this kind of awakening I am experiencing, I have wondered if other students who are involved in numerous activities on this campus practice healthy lifestyles or if they perhaps had similar stories to mine. I also wanted to build on some other writers who have looked into organizational involvement and see if there has been any type of shift, especially since the pandemic started. For instance, Eric Buehler wrote an article highlighting how GPA and involvement are linked to satisfaction. Buehler found that although extracurricular activities can be fulfilling, much satisfaction is dependent on how students perform in the classroom.

Along the way, many other articles have been written about involvement at Denison but we decided to take another look in the context of 2021. I wanted to first look at the extent that students engage in healthy lifestyle activities here on the Hill. It appears that most people practice some healthy lifestyle activities sometimes but perhaps not enough to really be considered healthy. But let’s focus on the bright side and recognize it depends on the activity – 65 percent say they work out at least 3 times per week. That’s good! Very few (15%) never take time for self-reflection, but the rest certainly don’t do it daily. News consumption is pretty low – close to two-thirds engage once a week or less; but surprising numbers read for pleasure – two-fifths read 4 or more days a week. And a surprising portion read for pleasure regularly – almost all do it at least once a week.

This data is particularly surprising as I thought that most students wouldn’t engage in hardly any healthy lifestyle activities (a sum of the above activities). However, there’s some even more surprising news. It seems that healthy lifestyles actually climb slightly with organizational involvement. Although this wasn’t the case for me as an involved individual, it’s nice to see that it is reality for many on this campus.

I think if I took the same survey that Buehler’s article was based on back in 2017, I would say the same thing. But, now, as a senior, I feel much more connected to my extracurriculars and relationships that come with them. The moral of the story is that if you are reading this and you’re an undergrad at Denison, get involved in a couple organizations that mean something to you, embrace all the challenges that come with them and make great friendships along the way. You will regret it if you don’t.

Sarah MacKenzie is a sad Political Science senior major who is fearing the impending graduation next weekend.

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