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J Allied Health. 2016 Summer;45(2):81-6.

Many College Students Underestimate Diabetes Risk.

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New York Institute of Technology, School of Health Professions, Northern Boulevard, PO Box 8000, Old Westbury, NY 11568-8000, USA. Tel 516-686-3803, fax 516-686-7804.



College students form long-lasting diet and health behaviors that are associated with an increased lifetime risk of type 2 diabetes. Thus, colleges and universities can be critical settings to increase awareness of diabetes risk and for nutrition education and health interventions. However, it is not clear if high-risk students recognize the likelihood of diabetes in their future.


To assess personal risk perceptions of a sample of multiracial college students with three or more known risk factors for diabetes, and to identity characteristics of students with an unrealistic perception of their future risk.


Self-reported data on health and behavior were collected from 1,579 students from three urban colleges. The students at high risk (n=541) for diabetes were categorized as having either a realistic or unrealistic perception of their future risk of diabetes. Characteristics of the two groups were examined using multivariate logistic regression.


Approximately 61% of the high-risk students recognized they were more likely to develop diabetes than others, while the remaining 39% did not perceive their personal risk to be high. The under-estimators were significantly more likely to be male (p=0.010), have no family history of diabetes (p=0.029), and be born outside the United States (p<0.001).


The under-estimators, an unrealistically optimistic high-risk group, warrant attention, as an unrealistic perception may reduce their likelihood of taking preventive actions to diminish the threat. There is a pressing need to heighten knowledge and awareness of diabetes risk and to develop models of health education and behavior change that are both relevant and effective for young adults.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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