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Open AccessArticle

Evaluating Potential Behavioral Mediators for Increasing Similarity in Friends’ Body Size among College Students

1
College of Nursing, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID 83209, USA
2
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA
3
Department of Sociology, University of California—Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA
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Department of Applied Health Science, School of Public Health-Bloomington, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA
5
College of Health Solutions, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2019, 11(9), 1996; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11091996
Received: 12 July 2019 / Revised: 16 August 2019 / Accepted: 19 August 2019 / Published: 23 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dietary Intake and Eating Patterns in College Students)
College students and their friends become more similar in weight status over time. However, it is unclear which mediators explain this relationship. Using validated survey measures of diet, physical activity, alcohol intake, sleep behaviors, mental health, and food security status, we take a comprehensive look at possible factors associated with excess weight gain that may explain friends’ convergence on body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, waist to hip ratio, and waist to height ratio over time. We use linear mixed models applied to a longitudinal dataset of first-year college students to examine whether these variables satisfy two criteria for potential candidate mediators of friends’ influence on anthropometrics—cross-sectional similarity among friends (n = 509) and longitudinal associations with increasing anthropometrics (n = 428). While friends were similar on some survey measures (such as dining hall use, home cooked meal consumption, fruit intake, alcohol intake, hours of sleep, and stress). Only dining hall use and stress emerged as potential explanations for why friends’ BMI and anthropometric change may be similar. Given that only a few variables satisfied the two criteria as potential mediators, future research may need to consider alternative measurement approaches, including real-time assessments, objective measurements, and alternative factors causing the convergence of friends’ and college students’ body size over time. View Full-Text
Keywords: college; social network; friends; diet; physical activity; sleep; weight-related behaviors; BMI; longitudinal college; social network; friends; diet; physical activity; sleep; weight-related behaviors; BMI; longitudinal
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van Woerden, I.; Hruschka, D.; Schaefer, D.R.; Fine, K.L.; Bruening, M. Evaluating Potential Behavioral Mediators for Increasing Similarity in Friends’ Body Size among College Students. Nutrients 2019, 11, 1996.

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