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Health Psychol. 2008 Jan;27(1 Suppl):S3-9. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.27.1.S3.

The "freshman fifteen" (the "freshman five" actually): predictors and possible explanations.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Florida State University, FL, USA.



To conduct a prospective, longitudinal study examining weight fluctuation and its predictors before and during the first year of college.


Men (n = 266) and women (n = 341) enrolled at Dartmouth College (age range: 16 to 26; body mass index range: 15.0 to 42.9) provided self-reports of weight and height and completed measures of self-esteem, eating habits, interpersonal relationships, exercise patterns, and disordered eating behaviors both in their senior year of high school and either 3, 6, or 9 months into college.


Self-reported weight was the primary outcome indicator.


Analyses indicated that both men and women gained a significant amount of weight (3.5 and 4.0 pounds, respectively). Weight gain occurred before November of the first academic year and was maintained as the year progressed. College freshmen gain weight at a much higher rate than that of average American adults. For men, frequently engaging in exercise predicted weight gain. Having troublesome relationships with parents also predicted weight gain in men, whereas for women, having positive relationships with parents predicted weight gain.


Understanding the predictors of early college weight gain may aid in the development of prevention programs.

(Copyright) 2008 APA.

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