Background: Students often experience undesirable body composition changes, as well as previously unknown stressors, during the transition to college. This study characterizes the relationship between body composition, stress, and academic performance in the first semester of college.
Methods: At the beginning and end of their first semester, 54 students (59.2% female) completed in-person weight and fat assessment (bioelectrical impedance analysis), as well as online stress assessment (“academic stress” via the Inventory of College Students’ Recent Life Experiences, ICSRLE, and “perceived stress” via the Perceived Stress Scale, PSS). Grade point average (GPA) was obtained from the registrar. Paired t-tests were used to determine if changes occurred from the beginning to end of semester. Pearson correlation coefficients were used to identify associations between variables.
Results: Increases in weight (2.5±6.2lbs), fat (1.4±2.4%), and academic stress were noted in all students, while perceived stress increased in females only (p<.05 for all). GPA was negatively associated with change in academic stress in all students (academic stress Δ = ICSRLE post–pre; r=-.325, p<.05), meaning conflict with professors or dissatisfaction with school was related to lower grades. Changes in weight and perceived stress were positively associated in females only (perceived stress Δ = PSS post–pre; r=.419, p<.05), meaning that greater weight gain was related to feelings of lacking control in life events.
Conclusions: Undesirable increases in weight and fat were noted in all first-semester college students, whereas stress increased more in females. Targeted interventions related to stress reduction and weight maintenance are warranted for optimal health and academic performance in college.
Dr. Mary-Jon Ludy
First Advisor Department
Dr. Abby Braden
Second Advisor Department
Mansperger, Josie, "The Relationship between Body Composition, Stress, and Academic Performance in First-Semester College Students" (2017). Honors Projects. 819.