Eat, sleep, work, play: associations of weight status and health-related behaviors among young adult college students

Am J Health Promot. 2014 Nov-Dec;29(2):e64-72. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.130327-QUAN-130. Epub 2013 Dec 20.


Purpose: To examine relationships of sleep, eating, and exercise behaviors; work time pressures; and sociodemographic characteristics by weight status (healthy weight [body mass index or BMI < 25] vs. overweight [BMI ≥ 25]) of young adults.

Design: Cross-sectional.

Setting: Nine U.S. universities.

Subjects: Enrolled college students (N = 1252; 18-24 years; 80% white; 59% female).

Measures: Survey included the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ), Satter Eating Competence Inventory (ecSI), National Cancer Institute Fruit/Vegetable Screener, International Physical Activity Questionnaire, Work Time Pressure items, and sociodemographic characteristics.

Analysis: Chi-square and t-tests determined significant bivariate associations of sociodemographics, sleep behaviors, eating behaviors, physical activity behavior, and work time pressures with weight status (i.e., healthy vs. overweight/obese). Statistically significant bivariate associations with weight status were then entered into a multivariate logistic regression model that estimated associations with being overweight/obese.

Results: Sex (female), race (nonwhite), older age, higher Global PSQI score, lower ecSI total score, and higher TFEQ Emotional Eating Scale score were significantly (p < .05) associated with overweight/obesity in bivariate analyses. Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that sex (female; odds ratio [OR] = 2.05, confidence interval [CI] = 1.54-2.74), older age (OR = 1.35, CI = 1.21-1.50), higher Global PSQI score (OR = 1.07, CI = 1.01-1.13), and lower ecSI score (OR = .96, CI = .94-.98), were significantly (p < .05) associated with overweight/obesity.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that obesity prevention interventions for college students should include an education component to emphasize the importance of overall sleep quality and improving eating competence.

Keywords: Behaviors; Eating; Health focus: weight control; Manuscript format: research; Outcome measure: behavioral; Prevention Research; Research purpose: modeling/relationship testing; Setting: school; Sleep; Strategy: skill building/behavior change; Study design: nonexperimental; Target population age: adults; Target population circumstances: education/income level, race/ethnicity; Weight; Young Adults, Health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Weight*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Sleep*
  • Students / psychology
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Universities / statistics & numerical data
  • Work / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult