An examination of student health behaviours during first year at University

Johanna Shaw, Ann-Marie Knowles, Allan Hewitt, Sarah Robertson, Neil Gibson, Chris Easton

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Background: University is seen as a time of great change for many individuals where young people gradually assume responsibility for their own health. Reports from 2010 indicate that over two million students gained university or higher education entry places across various UK institutions (Ayoubi & Massoud, 2012), however research suggests student psychological health significantly decreases throughout the period of a degree course when compared to previously measured well-being levels (Andrews & Wilding, 2004). Physical activities in any form improve not only physical benefits but can also encourage mental health benefits, related to a state of decreased depression and an enhanced mood (Biddle & Mutrie, 1991). University students encounter numerous obstacles such as financial difficulties and exam stress as well as experience a huge amount of changes when they progress from the structured setting of school to the more independent and self-motivated environment apparent at university (MacNamara & Collins, 2010). Previous US research demonstrates time spent at university to be characterised by the engagement in adverse health habits such as lack of physical activity, increase in sedentary behaviour’s and poor dietary habits yet limited UK data exists for young adults. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to observe health behaviours, specifically psychological, dietary and physical activity behaviours, of young adults during the transition to university. The study was exploratory and of a mixed method design combining both quantitative and qualitative research methods in two Scottish-based universities. Methods: A total of 32 participants took part in this cross-sectional study, more than half (59%, n = 19) were male. The study involved an initial visit where physical assessments were recorded to include resting heart rate, blood pressure, height, weight, waist and hip circumference. Participants then completed a demographic questionnaire and a series of psychological questionnaires assessing overall well-being (SF-12; Ware, Kosinki, & Keller, 1996), depression and anxiety (Zigmond & Snaith, 1983) and received their food diary and tri-axial accelerometer to be worn for 7 days. After the 7-day measurement period, a second visit was scheduled where self-report physical activity was measured using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (Hagstromer, Oja, & Sjostrom, 2006) and accelerometer, and food diary were collected. A random sample of the participants (n = 6) took part in a recorded interview with the researcher to further explore students’ perceptions and understanding of any changes in health behaviours during this key transitional period to university. The study was approved by the University of Strathclyde School of Psychological Sciences and Health Ethics Committee. Results, Discussion and Conclusion: Data collection is currently on going with the aim to examine the relationship between both subjectively and objectively measured physical activity with the psychological measures of well-being, depression and anxiety using Pearson’s correlation coefficient (r). An examination of the relationship between both subjectively and objectively measured physical activity and energy intake will also be carried out. An independent samples t-test will be used to examine the differences in psychological well-being, physical activity and energy intake across gender and universities. Qualitative analysis of health behaviours and physical activity in first year students at both universities will also be conducted using an inductive approach to develop key themes relating to student perceptions of their health behaviours during the transition to university.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S95
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'An examination of student health behaviours during first year at University'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this