This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Weight and Body Measurement Changes In College Freshmen




Balasubramanian, Mahendran

Type of Degree



Consumer Affairs


A limited number of research studies suggest that new college students gain some weight on average during their freshman year. Most studies have had relatively small samples; some have used self-reported rather than measured weight. No known studies have followed body circumference measurements to explore where the effects of weight change may be observed. The purpose of this research was to quantitatively assess links between weight changes and body measurement alterations in entering freshmen through their first year. At the beginning of fall semester 2007, a convenience sample of 240 subjects were weighed, had body fat measured, completed a questionnaire, and had body measurements extracted through 3D body scanning; 205 subjects returned at the end of spring semester 2008. Of these, 187 (67 males and 120 females) had no missing measurements and were used for the analysis. Of the 187, 100 (43 males and 57 females) gained weight, respectively averaging 6.93 lb and 7.21 lb; 39 (10 males and 29 females) lost weight (respective means of 6.34 lb and 3.72 lb). The remaining subjects remained within ±2 lb of their fall weight and were considered a no change group. Six trunk and two limb (biceps and thigh) measurements were compared. Among males and females who gained weight, seven measurements increased significantly; males’ chest and females’ thigh measurements increased but not significantly. Significant trunk increases ranged 1.31-1.94 in. in males and 0.89-1.21 in females; males’ biceps and thigh increases were 0.61 and 0.79 in., and females’ biceps increased 0.46 in. In the weight lost groups, only seat and thigh measurements decreased significantly for males (0.83 and 0.73 in.), and only thigh and biceps (0.59 and 0.38 in.) for females. Weight gain data were clustered into three or four segments for correlation analysis. Just eight significant relationships were found, two in clusters of ±2-6.6 lb and the others in clusters of ±4.2-20.4 lb. The limited results from the correlation analysis may have been influenced by small cluster sizes. Use of 3D body scanning enabled assessment of the degree of symmetry or asymmetry in circumferential changes. Planar cross-sections of the chest/bust, hip, and waist were derived and overlaid for the two time points. Each overlay was visually categorized as symmetrical or asymmetrical in four possible ways (more in the back and front, most in the back, most in the front, or more on the sides). Males and females who gained and lost weight showed symmetric and asymmetric changes; males had proportionally more cases of symmetry than females. Findings showed that actual measurement increases that occurred with weight gained or lost varied across trunk locations and were not necessarily symmetric around the body. This has implications for the divergent fields of health care and the apparel industry. Health professionals are interested in where weight may be deposited in relation to obesity. Apparel product developers make assumptions about how bodies change for garment sizing. More longitudinal study is needed to expand understanding of the links between and patterns of weight and body measurement change.