College students' health behavior clusters: Differences by sex

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Objective: The study purpose was to identify clusters of weight-related behaviors by sex in a college student populations. Methods: We conducted secondary data analysis from online surveys and physical assessments collected in Project Young Adults Eating and Active for Health (YEAH) with a convenience sample of students on 13 college campuses in the United States. We performed 2-step cluster analysis by sex to identify subgroups with homogeneous characteristics and behaviors. We used 8 derivation variables: healthy eating; eating restraints; external cues; stress; fruit/vegetable intake; calories from fat; calories from sugar-sweetened beverages; and physical activity. Contribution of derivation variables to clusters was analyzed with a MANOVA test. Results: Data from 1594 students were included. Cluster analysis revealed 2-clusters labeled "Healthful Behavior" and "At-risk" for males and females with an additional "Laid Back" cluster for males. "At-risk" clusters had the highest BMI, waist circumference, elevated health risk, and stress and least healthy dietary intake and physical activity. The "Laid Back" cluster had normal weights and the lowest restrained eating, external cues sensitivity, and stress. Conclusion: Identified differences in characteristics and attitudes towards weight-related behaviors between males and females can be used to tailor weight management programs.

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American Journal of Health Behavior