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Relationships between food consumption and living arrangements among university students in four European countries - A cross-sectional study

Walid El Ansari1, Christiane Stock2 and Rafael T Mikolajczyk34*

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Sport, Health & Social Care, University of Gloucestershire, Gloucester, United Kingdom

2 Unit for Health Promotion Research, Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Esbjerg, Denmark

3 Dept. of Public Health Medicine, School of Public Health University of Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany

4 Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Bremen Institute for Prevention Research and Social Medicine, Achterstraße 30, Bremen, D-28359, Germany

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Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:28  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-28

Published: 24 April 2012



The transition of young people from school to university has many health implications. Food choice at the university can differ because of childhood food consumption patterns, sex and the living arrangements. Food consumption may change especially if students are living away from home. We aimed to assess food consumption patterns among university students from four European countries and how they differ by their living arrangements.


We analysed data from a cross-country survey assessing health and health behaviours of students. The sample comprised a total of 2402 first year undergraduate students from one university in each of the countries of Germany, Denmark, Poland and Bulgaria. Food consumption was assessed by means of a food frequency questionnaire with 9 food groups (indicators).


Students’ food consumption patterns differed across the countries. Frequent consumption of unhealthy items was common. Bulgarian students reported most often frequent consumption of sweets and cakes and snacks (e.g. chips and fast food). Polish students reported the least frequent consumption of vegetables and a low consumption of fruits. Across all countries except Bulgaria, men reported substantially more often frequent consumption of snacks than women. Students living at parental home consumed more fruit, vegetables, and meat than those who resided outside of their family home in all studied countries. There was more variation with regard to cakes and salads with more frequent consumption of cakes among Bulgarian female students and Danish male students and more frequent consumption of salads among Danish female students not living at parental home, compared to students from other countries.


Nutrition habits of university students differed across countries and by sex. Students living at parental home displayed more healthy nutrition habits, with some exceptions.

University students; Dietary intake; Fruits and vegetables; Food consumption; CNSHS