Stress and weight change in university students in the United Kingdom

Physiol Behav. 2007 Nov 23;92(4):548-53. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2007.04.032. Epub 2007 May 3.


Students in the US have been shown to gain weight during their first year at university. This study examined whether students in Britain have a similar weight change during their first year at university, and tested the hypothesis that stress plays a role. A cross-sectional survey was conducted to assess stress and perceived weight change. Two hundred and sixty eight students at University College London completed the questionnaire at the end of their first year of university. On average, students reported a significant weight increase (1.53 kg+/-2.70, p<0.001), although there was considerable variation, with 55% of the sample reporting weight gain, 12% weight loss, and 33% remaining stable. Logistic regression analyses demonstrated that stress was associated with greater risk of weight gain (OR, 1.27, 95% CI, 1.12 to 1.44, p=0.001) and weight loss (1.33, 1.10 to 1.61, p=0.003), but associations were stronger among women. The associations remained unchanged after adjustment for health behaviours. Our findings confirm a modest weight gain over the first year at university, which was associated with higher levels of perceived stress in women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Eating / physiology
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Reference Values
  • Self-Assessment
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Universities
  • Weight Gain / physiology
  • Weight Loss / physiology