The Freshman 15: A Critical Time for Obesity Intervention or Media Myth?

Social Science Quarterly (Impact Factor: 0.99). 01/1997; 92(5). DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2011.00823.x

ABSTRACT Objectives. We test whether the phrase "Freshman 15" accurately describes weight change among first-year college students. We also analyze freshmen's weight change during and after college. Methods. This is the first investigation of the "Freshman 15" to use a nationally representative random sample, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97). The data are analyzed using descriptive statistics, regression analysis, simulations, and longitudinal analysis. Results. Freshmen gain between 2.5 to 3.5 pounds, on average, over the course of their first year of college. Compared to same-age noncollege attendees, the typical freshman gains only an additional half-pound. Instead of a spike in weight during the freshman year, college-educated individuals exhibit moderate but steady weight gain during and after college. Conclusion. Anti-obesity efforts directed specifically at college freshmen will likely have little impact on obesity prevalence among young adults. Many college-bound students worry about the "Freshman 15," the much publicized notion that students tend to gain substantial weight during their first year at college. This fear is partly based on the upward trend in the average adult's weight. Since the early 1970s, the U.S. adult obesity rate has risen from about 14 percent of the population to nearly 35 percent (National Center for Health Statistics, 2009). Stemming and reversing the obesity trend is important because it could reduce public and private health-care costs and improve labor productivity (Klarenbach et al., 2006; Thorpe, 2005; Tunceli, Li, and Williams, 2006; Wee et al., 2005). One obesity prevention strategy is to identify points in the lifecourse when weight gain is a particular risk and to focus interventions on these critical periods. Since college freshmen experience increased freedom over their diets, alcohol consumption, and sleep patterns, this transitional year may be such a critical period (Baranowski et al.

1 Bookmark
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Abstract Purpose . A criticism of incentives for health behaviors is that incentives undermine intrinsic motivation. The objective of this study was to determine the impact of monetary incentive provision on participation motives for exercise in first-year college students at a northeastern public university. Design . Randomized-controlled trial. Setting . Public university in the Northeastern United States. Subjects . One hundred seventeen first-year college students. Intervention . Participants were randomized to one of three conditions: a control condition receiving no incentives for meeting fitness-center attendance goals; a discontinued-incentive condition receiving weekly incentives during fall semester 2011, and no incentives during spring semester 2012; or a continued-incentive condition receiving weekly incentives during fall semester, and incentives on a variable-interval schedule during spring semester. Measures . The Exercise Motivation Inventory 2 measured exercise participation motives at baseline, end of fall semester, and end of spring semester. Fitness-center attendance was monitored by using ID-card check-in/check-out records. Analysis . Repeated-measures analyses using linear mixed models with first-order autoregressive covariance structures were run to compare motive changes in the three conditions. Results . Participation motives of Enjoyment and Revitalization associated with intrinsic motivation did not decrease significantly over time in any of the conditions, F(4, 218) = 2.25, p = .065 and F(4, 220) = 1.67, p = .16, respectively. Conclusion . Intrinsically associated participation motives for exercise did not decrease with incentive provision. Therefore, incentives may encourage fitness-center attendance without negatively impacting participation motives for exercise.
    American journal of health promotion: AJHP 01/2015; 29(3):192-9. DOI:10.4278/ajhp.140408-QUAN-135 · 2.37 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: E ating disorder (ED) symptoms are prevalent among college students. Recent surveys estimate that 13.5% of women and 3.6% of men screen positive for EDs and 20% of college students report a history of an ED. 1,2 Disordered eating behaviors and unhealthy weight regulation methods appear to have increased in this population over the last decade and affect an even greater number of students. 3 Subclinical symptoms are associated with significant distress and impairment, and persist over time. 1 Of great concern are the large numbers of students with EDs who do not seek treatment, an estimated 80 to 90% of individuals who screen positive for an ED. 1, 4 College presents a unique opportunity to prevent, identify, and treat EDs given the multiple channels through which students can be reached, including health services, residential education, academic affairs, social networks, and extracurricular activities. This paper provides a summary of the current status of EDs on college campuses, including identification, prevention, and evidence-based treatment. We also highlight key challenges and important areas for further outreach and research. How do EDs in College Students Present? ED Screening Transitions are times when problem behaviors may become exacerbated. The transition to college is a major life event that occurs in the context of significant neurological change. For many students, college also marks a change in their eating environment, comparison of eating habits with peers, and possible concern about the "Freshmen 15" weight gain myth. 5 It is unsurprising then, that the peak age of onset for BN, BED and EDNOS is 16-20 years, around the time that young people leave home and go to college. 6 EDs are often associated with other problems such as major depression, panic disorder, generalized anxiety, suicidal ideation, self-injury, binge drinking, cigarette smoking, and marijuana use, making early detection and intervention among this population of even greater public health importance. 1 Fortunately, there is a growing literature on ED screening instruments with good predictive validity that can identify ED risk factors, and preventive interventions to reduce ED risk and onset have been developed. Screening can be conducted on a mandatory basis for incoming students as part of entrance medical forms, "strongly encouraged" (i.e., recommended but not required) in the same way that many universities promote alcohol education programs for new students, or advertised as one of several resources available to students through health promotion and/or counseling center services. 7-9 We favor an online format for screens as this permits greater anonymity and confidentiality, easier access, and the provision of immediate feedback to the student with recommendations for appropriate resources. Wide-spread screening also promotes a greater reach among the student body and reduces the potential to overlook problematic behaviors among students.
    Harvard health policy review 01/2012; 13(2):28-38.
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Context: The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to assess changes in body weight and relative adiposity (%FAT) during college and identify potential moderating variables. Evidence acquisition: A review of peer-reviewed articles published before June 28, 2013 identified 49 studies evaluating the effect of the first year of college on the dependent variables of body weight (137 effects from 48 studies) and %FAT (48 effects from 19 studies). Statistical analysis was conducted between July 1, 2013, and May 1, 2014. Effect sizes were calculated by subtracting the mean pre-test measurements from the mean post-test measurements. Evidence synthesis: Participants' weight increased 1.55 kg (95% CI=1.3, 1.8 kg) during college, with a 1.17% increase in %FAT (95% CI=0.7, 1.6%). Meta-regression analysis concluded that changes in body weight and %FAT were positively associated with study duration, suggesting that effects measuring change over a longer duration yielded larger effects when compared to effects with shorter observations. Sex and baseline BMI were not associated with change in weight or %FAT after accounting for study duration. Conclusions: The increase in weight and %FAT during the college years is equal to 1.55 kg and 1.17%, respectively. Change in body weight during the first year of college is significantly less than that during the cumulative remaining years of college. By understanding the magnitude of change, appropriate prevention efforts can be designed for the college population, which may be beneficial in reducing adult overweight and obesity rates. (C) 2014 American Journal of Preventive Medicine
    American Journal of Preventive Medicine 09/2014; 47(5). DOI:10.1016/j.amepre.2014.07.035 · 4.28 Impact Factor

Full-text (2 Sources)

Available from
Dec 3, 2014