Characteristics of male and female college students with weight dissatisfaction: A secondary data analysis

Jennifer Asselin, University of Rhode Island


Background. Body dissatisfaction (BD) includes two main components including shape and weight dissatisfaction (WD). College students have been shown to have BD relating to dieting behaviors and weight gain. This age group often experiences newly found independence from parents, periods of social change, and often changes in eating and exercise patterns resulting in significant changes in body weight. To better prevent weight gain and reduce the prevalence of weight gain, it is important to identify and understand predictors of WD. ^ Objective. The primary outcome of this secondary data analysis was to determine if WD predicted weight change over a 15 month period in male and female college students. The secondary outcome was to determine predictors of WD at baseline. ^ Subjects. Subjects were recruited from eight institutions by email recruitment, flyers, school newspapers and web sites. Of the 1,689 subjects, 830 were randomly assigned to the intervention group, and 531 completed the 15-month follow-up. Students ranged in age from 18–24 years with a BMI of 18.52 to 40.36, and 63.1% were female. ^ Methods. The study originates from Project WebHealth, a randomized 2 x 3 repeated measures design across three time points using measured body weight as the primary outcome variable, which was a study conducted from fall of 2007 to fall of 2008. This study is non-experimental in design given that the data are based only on the subjects in the web-based, non-diet intervention group. Questionnaires were completed on-line; anthropometric and fitness assessments, standardized across states, were conducted at each institution's health center or nutrition laboratory. ^ Intervention. The web-based intervention required participants to login weekly to the website, answer the module specific questions and read the customized educational materials. These educational materials were customized based on their answers to the assessment questions. The intervention consisted of 10 total lessons. ^ Results. WD did not predict weight change over 15 months in males or females. BMI, waist circumference (WC), and desired weight change (lbs) had a large effect on WD in females, and eating competence (EC) had a large effect on WD for males. In addition, BMI, WC, desired weight change (lbs), and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) had a medium effect on WD in males. For females, cognitive restraint, uncontrolled eating, emotional eating, EC had a medium effect on WD. There was a negative correlation between quantification of desired weight change and BMI. Participants with "negative" affective evaluation of weight desired the greatest amount of weight change as described by absolute value percent weight change. ^ Conclusion. This study displays the prevalence of WD in male and female college students. Predictors of WD included increased BMI, WC, desired weight change, and decreased eating competence. For females, those with the highest WD had the highest TFEQ scores suggesting that those with greater WD have higher levels of dietary restraint, emotional, and uncontrolled eating. For males and females, those with the highest WD had the lowest EC scores suggesting that those with greater WD have lower levels of eating competence. WD did not predict weight change over time suggesting that other factors may contribute to weight change. Further research is needed to determine predictors of weight change in college students in order to develop effective interventions that are gender specific, prevent weight gain, and promote body image appreciation and weight acceptance.^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Nutrition|Psychology, Physiological

Recommended Citation

Jennifer Asselin, "Characteristics of male and female college students with weight dissatisfaction: A secondary data analysis" (2012). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI1508331.