The differential prevalence of obesity and related behaviors in two- vs. four-year colleges.
The objective of this study was to determine whether obesity prevalence and weight-related behaviors (e.g., diet, physical activity) differ among students enrolled in 2-year community/technical colleges and those attending 4-year colleges/universities. This information could inform the development of intervention strategies. Through an existing surveillance system of Minnesota postsecondary education institutions, survey data were collected from 16,539 students from 27 campuses (14 two-year college campuses, 13 four-year college/university campuses; 2007-2008), including self-reported physical activity, media use, dietary patterns, weight control behaviors, height, and weight. Unadjusted analyses indicated that students enrolled in 2-year colleges, particularly females, had a higher prevalence of overweight/obesity, lower levels of physical activity, more television viewing, higher intakes of soda, fast food, and diet pills compared to students attending 4-year colleges (P < 0.05). Females attending 4-year colleges were more likely to engage in certain unhealthy weight control behaviors (taking diet pills, binge eating, self-induced vomiting) compared to females attending 2-year institutions. Among male students there were fewer differences between 2-year and 4-year colleges. Controlling for sociodemographic factors (e.g., race/ethnicity, age), most disparities in prevalence estimates remained, though many were attenuated. Overall, few young adults engage in weight-related behaviors consistent with national recommendations. Two-year college students may represent a particularly at-risk group. Disparities between 2- and 4-year college students exist beyond the sociodemographic differences in these populations. Effective weight-related interventions are needed for young adults, particularly females attending 2-year colleges and all males attending postsecondary institutions.
N Laska, M; Pasch, KE; Lust, K; Story, M; Ehlinger, E
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