Among young adults, college students and graduates practiced more healthful habits and made more healthful food choices than did nonstudents

C C Georgiou, N M Betts, S L Hoerr, K Keim, P K Peters, B Stewart, J Voichick
Journal of the American Dietetic Association 1997, 97 (7): 754-9

OBJECTIVES: Health-related characteristics and habits and food choices of young adults were compared for three groups: college students, college graduates, and nonstudents.

DESIGN: Subjects completed a mailed survey that included questions about demographics, attitudes, and behaviors and a food frequency questionnaire. Main outcome measures were health-related characteristics and habits and food choices.

SUBJECTS: Female (n = 758) and male (n = 580) 18- to 24-year-olds in nine states who were selected randomly by zip code in each state. The response rate averaged 43% for all states.

STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED: Analysis of variance of chi 2 tests were applied to health-related personal characteristic variables and the Kruskal-Wallis analysis of variance was applied to food consumption variables for women and men separately.

RESULTS: According to self-reported heights and weights, female nonstudents were more often overweight than female students or graduates. Nonstudents of both genders reported smoking more often than students or graduates. College students and graduates ate more grain foods high in dietary fiber, more fruits and dark-green vegetables, and more lower-fat milk and meats than nonstudents.

CONCLUSIONS/APPLICATIONS: Nonstudents were at greater health risk for some chronic illnesses, because of poorer health habits and food choices, than were college students and graduates. The behavior of nonstudents implies weaker response to messages promoting weight control, smoking cessation, and observance of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans than behavior exhibited by students or college graduates. Health promotion efforts could be enhanced by identifying demographic, educational, situational, and formative influences on positive health and dietary behaviors of young adults.

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