Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Understanding health behavior influences of undergraduate students during college transition Public Deposited

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  • As college students transition to life away from their parental home, the need to make independent decisions regarding their eating and exercise behaviors is evident. This life transition may be a critical period for establishment of long term behavior patterns with potential impact on health, disease and weight balance. This study attempts to reveal the extent to which students perceive the influences in a new college life to impact their eating and exercise behaviors, either positively or negatively, and how the impact of that influence may compare to their pre-college behaviors. This study surveyed 247 Oregon State University students (43% male), primarily transitioning freshman (69%), regarding their perception of influences upon eating and exercise behaviors and their preparedness for college life. The results revealed significant changes in how influences impacted behavior when asked to compare previous to current influences upon those behaviors (scale = 1–7, very negative to very positive; 4 = neither positive nor negative). Influences from their pre-college life ranked as being more neutral compared to those at college, suggesting that college life environments have important influence upon behavior. The influences perceived to be significantly less positive for eating behavior included the impact of family habits, the influence of peers, and campus food choices compared to home food choices. Alternately, students were significantly more (p< 0.05) positively influenced to make healthful eating decisions as a result of their changing school schedule and their nutrition knowledge. The significant (p< 0.05) influences that students perceived to positively impact exercise behavior included peer pressure to exercise, having an exercise partner, having a changing class schedule, having access to facilities, and their sense of stress level. No gender differences were found for perceived influences upon eating behaviors, but some differences were found for male versus female’s perceived exercise behavior influences. At college, males were more positively influenced by peers than females. Females were reportedly more positively influenced to exercise when college school workload was heavy and when stressed. Students ranked the extent to which they felt prepared for college life and its impact upon eating and exercise behaviors. Student responses suggest a general perception of being well prepared (scale= 1 (least) to 7 (most)) for managing time (5.46), making healthy food choices (5.37), balancing school and healthy exercise habits (4.98), and overcoming peer pressure at college (6.04). Students were asked about changes in behavior upon coming to college, and they reported more late night eating and snacking, as well as decreased consumption of milk as a beverage at college. The genders reported some difference in changes in behavior. Males indicated that they eat more food, eat more regularly, and eat larger quantities at college than females. Males also reported eating more fast food at college, and both males and females reported more drinking of alcohol at college. Females showed a greater increase in alcohol consumption than males; females also reported drinking more coffee at college. Exercise behavior changes were less marked for both groups; however, females more consistently reported that they exercise more regularly now at college. Several correlations were found among college influences upon eating and exercise behaviors, with the strongest correlations (r≥ 0.5; p< 0.05) having to do with a changing class schedule, a heavy school workload, and students’ sense of stress. These may be important influences upon college students’ eating and exercise behaviors that need further study. Efforts to facilitate college students’ ability to manage stress, time, and workload may be important in the development of healthy behaviors upon coming to college.
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