Eating, drinking and physical activity in Faculty of Health Science students compared to other students at a South African university
Objectives: Students studying towards a qualification in Health Sciences should have more knowledge of a healthy lifestyle than other university students. However, it has been questioned whether or not these students apply such knowledge. While studies have been conducted on the lifestyle habits of students in general, few have compared the practices of Health Science students with those of other students. The objectives of this study were to compare the eating patterns, alcohol consumption and physical activity of Health Science students with those of other students.
Design: A cross-sectional study design that utilised an electronic self-administered survey was applied. Data were analysed using SPSS® and Pearson’s chi-square test (p-value < 0.050).
Subjects and setting: A convenience sample (n = 619), consisting of registered students at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, participated, after providing informed consent.
Outcomes measures: Dietary patterns and frequency of intake, alcohol consumption and physical activity were measured.
Results: A statistical difference was not reported between the eating patterns, alcohol consumption and physical activity of Health Science students and those of other students. Most of the students exhibited poor dietary behaviour. For example, 65% of Health Science students and 67% of students in other faculties consumed less than one fruit per day, 70% of Health Science students and 64% of other students consumed less than one vegetable per day, while 91% of Health Science students and 93% of students in other faculties consumed less than two glasses of milk per day. Although not significant, fewer Health Science students (4%) than students of other faculties (9%) consumed alcohol more than twice a week. Binge drinking was more common in Health Science students. Forty-eight per cent of the Health Science students indicated that they were physically inactive, compared to 49% of students in other faculties.
Conclusion: Students studying Health Science do not have a healthier lifestyle than other students. Further theory-based intervention studies to determine the reasons for this behaviour need to be undertaken. Strategies should be developed to encourage behavioural change.
Keywords: dietary intake, alcohol consumption, physical activity, Health Sciences, university students
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