This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Weight Change Among College Freshmen: The Freshmen 4




Drawdy, Kelly

Type of Degree



Nutrition and Food Science


A common phenomenon called the “freshmen 15” is thought to occur during the first year of college. While this belief is popular in press, little scientific evidence supports this phenomenon. This study examined changes in body weight and fat in 36 college students during their freshmen year and factors associated with weight change. Subjects included 26 females and 10 males, mean age 18.08 ± 0.28 years. Subjects were measured for height, weight, and body composition at the beginning and end of fall semester 2006, and at the end of spring semester 2007. Subjects also completed lifestyle and dietary questionnaires. At the beginning of fall semester, mean initial weight and height of the females were 124.9 ± 16.6 lbs and 64.68 ± 2.24 inches, respectively. By the end of fall semester, the females’ (n = 25) mean weight significantly increased to 126.9 ± 16.4 lbs. Mean body fat and BMI increased significantly from 22.2 ± 4.1% to 23.2 ± 3.9% and from 21.0 ± 2.2 kg/m2 to 21.4 ± 2.2 kg/m2, respectively. Mean initial weight and height of the 10 males were 174.4 ± 24.6 lbs and 69.00 ± 1.90 inches, respectively. By the end of fall semester, mean body fat increased significantly from 14.2 ± 5.4% to 15.1 ± 4.8%. For the entire group (n = 35), mean weight significantly increased from 139.0 ± 29.5 lbs to 140.9 ± 3.8 lbs at the end of fall. Mean body fat and BMI increased significantly from 19.9 ± 5.7% to 20.9 ± 5.5% and from 22.4 ± 3.6 kg/m2 to 22.7 ± 3.6 kg/m2, respectively. From the end of fall to the end of spring semester, no significant changes in body weight, fat, or BMI occurred in the returning 21 females and eight males. However, for the entire group (n = 29), mean weight and BMI significantly increased. Over the academic year, weight significantly increased by of 3.8 + 5.0 lbs. Weight change for the academic year for females averaged a 3.2 ± 5.1 lbs gain and for males a 5.4 ± 4.5 lbs gain. Mean body fat and BMI also increased significantly by 1.1% and 0.7 kg/m2, respectively. Weight change over the academic year ranged from a loss of 5.8 lbs to a gain of 13 lbs; 76% of students gained weight during the freshmen year of college. Several factors which can influence weight gain were examined including differences in the frequency of exercise, sleeping, alcoholic drink consumption, restaurant and dining hall patronage, breakfast consumption, and number of dining companions, but not found to differ between subjects who gained weight versus subjects who lost weight or had no change in weight. These findings suggest that the majority of college students are at risk of weight gain during their freshmen year. Weight gain, however, averaged about 4 lbs, and not the popularized 15 lbs. The causes of the observed gains are unclear.