Dholakia, Ruby, R

Advisor Department





obesity; stress; freshman 15; peer pressure; social pressure; weight gain; overeating


One of the biggest issues in our society today is the increase in obesity. Despite the amount of available data on the negative health effects or possible solutions and food alternatives, the problem has not seemed to haven gotten any better. In more recent years, the notorious "freshman 15" has even become a victim to obesity and is weighing in as the "freshman 30." What is causing college students to become more susceptible to weight gain? There has been much research conducted to find the common causes of over-eating and weight gain, especially amongst those in college. After reading several articles and experimental study reports, I have found social pressure and stress to be the biggest contributors to this growing epidemic. From what I have studied, there is a positive correlation between the amount of people an individual is eating with and the amount of food that individual eats. Studies have shown that a person's desire to fit in combined with the distraction of the social interaction itself increases consumption as well as increases the likelihood of eating unhealthy foods. On the other hand, several college norms such as a full course load, increased alcohol intake, adjustment to a new environment, and meeting new people all are big causes of stress, particularly in freshman. Stress is another factor that usually leads to weight gain. Research has shown that those under stress tend to focus on immediate gratification without regard to consequences. People are under the assumption that eating unhealthy foods will make them happy and reduce stress. In all reality though, when you think about what college campuses usually have to offer in terms of food choice, healthy alternatives are not easily found. On the other hand, people have been going to college and engaging in social interactions for generations, so why is weight-gain suddenly a problem now? The biggest change in the past 20 years attributes mostly to the advancement of technology. Most people can now perform several tasks from the use of his or her mobile phone or computer such as ordering food online. Several establishments surrounding The University of Rhode Island have meal ordering and/or delivery services that can be accessed on the Internet. One of the benefits of ordering your food online is not only the convenience, but also the anonymity of it. The research I conduct was done to find out how the anonymity from modern technology has affected the consumption habits of college students here at The University of Rhode Island. Does ordering food online cause a person to feel less social pressure? Does the convenience of online food ordering make it easier for students under stress to give into impulse? How does the anonymity and lack of social pressure affect an individual’s meal choice and portion size? In order to answer these questions, I surveyed several students at URI as well as interviewed specific students who frequently use online ordering. The hope is that this data will help to discover if modern technology, as well as the anonymity it provides, is a contributing factor to weight gain in college students.