Sex differences in lifestyle behaviors among U.S. college freshmen

Melissa D. Olfert, Makenzie L. Barr, Camille C. Charlier, Geoffreyw Greene, Wenjun Zhou, Sarah E. Colby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Within lifestyle behavior research, the sex of populations causes differences in behaviors and outcomes of studies. This cross-sectional study investigated lifestyle behavior patterns in college students, examining sex differences in four areas: Nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and stress. Data from over 1100 college freshmen across 8 United States universities were used for this cross-sectional analysis. Self-reported data assessed fruit and vegetable intake, fat percent intake, physical activity, perceived stress, and sleep quality. Statistical analysis included Pearson chi-squared and Mann–Whitney’s U tests for scores by sex. Likewise, healthy cut-offs were used to determine frequency of participants within range of the five tools. Males reported higher intake of both fruits and vegetables, and percent energy from fat than females. Males also reported higher physical activity levels, lower stress levels, and poorer sleep quality than females. Of the five self-reported tools, males were found to have a larger frequency of participants with healthy ranges than females. In a large college freshmen sample, sex was found to be related to general lifestyle behaviors which strengthen results reported in the previous literature. These findings shed light on the need for lifestyle behavior interventions among at-risk college students to enhance their behaviors to healthy levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number482
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: Approval to use the data set was granted by the University of Tennessee Institutional Review Board prior to study implementation. This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2014-67001-21851 and the West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station WVA00689 and WVA00721.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • College
  • Freshmen
  • Health behaviors
  • Self-report
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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