Weight changes in 1st year university students in England; an analysis of social and physical environment
Prevention of non-communicable diseases rely significantly on modifiable life habits. Sustainability of healthy lifestyle across the life cycle is critical for most factors. As obesity is reaching epidemic levels, it is important to understand the environments which foster weight gain and in turn, which can be modified. It has been established that as students transfer from high school to university, there is a tendency to gain weight. In North America, this phenomenon is referred to as the Freshman 15, in reference to the claim that on average, students gain 15 pounds (6.8kg) in their first year of university. Since then, revised numbers have shown an average increase of weight in students of 1 to 4kg. The growing literature on student health behaviours has led universities to become more conscious of their role in enabling students to maintain a healthy behaviour.
This doctoral project focuses on building a socio-ecological model for weight change in university students during their first year of study. Firstly, a meta-analysis reviewing all ‘Freshman 15’ literature was conducted and is now published in BMC Obesity. Building from the review, a cohort study of over 1,000 students across England was undertaken to better understand this phenomenon from a socio-ecological perspective. Analyses are to follow within the next calendar year. It is hoped that recommendations to universities and to policy makers will arise at the end of the project.
Claudia’s DPhil is funded by the Clarendon Scholarship, in partnership with the Nuffield Population Health Department and Wolfson College. She is supervised by Dr Nick Townsend and Associate Professor Charlie Foster.