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Open Access Research

Weight, socio-demographics, and health behaviour related correlates of academic performance in first year university students

Tom Deliens1*, Peter Clarys1, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij2 and Benedicte Deforche12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Human Biometry and Biomechanics, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium

2 Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

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Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:162  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-162

Published: 17 December 2013

Abstract

Background

This study aimed to examine differences in socio-demographics and health behaviour between Belgian first year university students who attended all final course exams and those who did not. Secondly, this study aimed to identify weight and health behaviour related correlates of academic performance in those students who attended all course exams.

Methods

Anthropometrics of 101 first year university students were measured at both the beginning of the first (T1) and second (T2) semester of the academic year. An on-line health behaviour questionnaire was filled out at T2. As a measure of academic performance student end-of-year Grade Point Averages (GPA) were obtained from the university’s registration office. Independent samples t-tests and chi2-tests were executed to compare students who attended all course exams during the first year of university and students who did not carry through. Uni- and multivariate linear regression analyses were conducted to identify correlates of academic performance in students who attended all course exams during the first year of university.

Results

Students who did not attend all course exams were predominantly male, showed higher increases in waist circumference during the first semester and consumed more French fries than those who attended all final course exams. Being male, lower secondary school grades, increases in weight, Body Mass Index and waist circumference over the first semester, more gaming on weekdays, being on a diet, eating at the student restaurant more frequently, higher soda and French fries consumption, and higher frequency of alcohol use predicted lower GPA’s in first year university students. When controlled for each other, being on a diet and higher frequency of alcohol use remained significant in the multivariate regression model, with frequency of alcohol use being the strongest correlate of GPA.

Conclusions

This study, conducted in Belgian first year university students, showed that academic performance is associated with a wide range of weight and health related behaviours. Future studies should investigate whether interventions aiming at promoting healthy behaviours among students could also have a positive impact on academic performance.

Keywords:
Weight; Health behaviour; Correlates; Academic performance; First year university students