POSTED BY: Jim Ittenbach | November 1, 2011
Ohio State University
Contrary to popular belief, most college students don’t gain anywhere near 15 pounds during their freshman year, according to a new nationwide study.
Rather than adding “the freshman 15,” as it is commonly called, the average student gains between about 2.5 and 3.5 pounds during the first year of college.
And college has little to do with the weight gain, the study revealed. The typical freshman only gains about a half-pound more than a same-age person who didn’t go to college.
“The ‘freshman 15’ is a media myth,” said Jay Zagorsky, co-author of the study and research scientist at Ohio State University’s Center for Human Resource Research.
“Most students don’t gain large amounts of weight. And it is not college that leads to weight gain – it is becoming a young adult.”
The results suggest that media reporting of the freshman 15 myth may have serious implications.
“Repeated use of the phrase ‘the freshman 15,’ even if it is being used just as a catchy, alliterative figure of speech, may contribute to the perception of being overweight, especially among young women,” Zagorsky said.
“Weight gain should not be a primary concern for students going off to college.”
Zagorsky conducted the study with Patricia Smith of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The study will appear in the December 2011 issue of the journal Social Science Quarterly.
The study uses data from 7,418 young people from around the country who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997. The NLSY97 interviewed people between the ages of 13 and 17 in 1997 and then interviewed the same people each year since then. The NLSY is conducted by Ohio State’s Center for Human Resource Research for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Among many other questions, respondents were asked their weight and college status each year.
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