College and Weight Gain: Is There a Freshman Five?

Paul von Hippel, University of Texas at Austin
Jamie L. Lynch, St. Norbert College

Education is generally associated with superior health, yet it is widely believed that attending college causes excessive weight gain (the “freshman five”). This study tries to ascertain whether college attendance increases or decreases obesity risk. Using data came from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 cohort (NLSY97), we compared the weight and weight gain of 16-to-23-year-olds who did and did not attend college. We conducted separate analyses for black, white, and Hispanic males and females. Each analysis controlled for confounders including prior weight and measures of family background. We find that college attenders do gain weight during their college years, but college-age non-attenders gain about the same amount. There are some weight differences between college attenders and non-attenders, but these differences are established well before college begins. College attendance appears to have little effect on body weight, at least in the short run.

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Presented in Poster Session 1