Predictors of health behaviours in college students

J Adv Nurs. 2004 Dec;48(5):463-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2004.03229.x.


Aim: This paper reports a study examining the direct effects of perceived stress, perceived availability of and satisfaction with social support, and self-efficacy, and examines the intermediary roles of perceived threat (perceived susceptibility x perceived severity), benefits, and barriers on alcohol behaviour, smoking behaviour, physical activity and nutrition behaviour, general safety behaviour and sun-protective behaviour in college students.

Background: Health behaviours formed during young adulthood may have a sustaining impact on health across later life. Entering college can be an exciting, yet stressful event for many adolescents and young adults as they face trying to adapt to changes in academic workloads, support networks, and their new environment. Coupled with these changes and new-found responsibilities, they have greater freedom and control over their lifestyles than ever before. However, researchers have shown globally that many college students engage in various risky health behaviours.

Method: A cross-sectional sample of 161 college students enrolled in an introductory psychology course completed self-report questionnaires regarding stress; social support; self-efficacy; and components of the Health Belief Model including perceived threat, perceived benefits, perceived barriers; and common health behaviours. Step-wise multiple regression analysis was conducted and significant predictors were retained as modifiers in the path analysis.

Findings: Self-efficacy significantly predicted alcohol and smoking behaviour, physical activity and nutrition protective behaviour, general safety protective behaviour and sun-protective behaviour. Under high-perceived threat, self-efficacy was mediated by perceived barriers for binge drinking and moderated by perceived barriers for physical activity and nutrition behaviours. In addition, under high-perceived threat, self-efficacy was moderated by perceived threat for alcohol use at 30 days and 6 months. Under low threat, self-efficacy was mediated by perceived barriers for smoking behaviour and general safety protective behaviours.

Conclusions: Future health promotion programmes with college students must use interventions that maximize self-efficacy and ultimately reduce barriers to adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Perception
  • Self Efficacy
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities