“Freshman 15” Weight Gain is a Myth, Study Finds

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of college students don’t gain anywhere near 15 pounds during their freshman year, a recent study conducted by the Ohio State University Center for Human Resource Research has found.

Instead, the research, published in December 2011 issue of the journal Social Science Quarterly, shows that first-year college students gain an average of somewhere in the ballpark of 2.4 to 3.5 pounds, and 25% of freshmen actually lose weight.

“The ‘freshman 15‘ is a media myth,” study co-author and OSU research scientist Jay Zagorsky, said in a written statement. “Most students don’t gain large amounts of weight. And it is not college that leads to weight gain – it is becoming a young adult.”

To come to that conclusion, Zagorsky and his partner, Patricia Smith, a social scientist at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, examined data from 7,418 people aged 13 to 17 surveyed as a part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997.

Keying in on factors like dorm living, drinking, sleep, two- and four-year degrees, work-study, and private versus public schools, the two discovered that the average freshman only gains less than a pound more than someone the same age who didn’t go to college.

“Many people going off to university are worried about many things,” said Zagorsky. “Especially for females, this means they should worry about one less thing. Worry about your roommate or passing your exam, but don’t worry about gaining 15 pounds.”

Zagorsky went on to say that colleges should stop using the term “freshman 15” because, in his opinion, its continued use could lead people to suffer eating disorders.

“The bottom line,” he added, noting that even a 1.5-pound annual weight gain will lead to obesity over time “is that people should learn to be healthy while they’re still young.”

What are your thoughts on Zagorsky and Smith’s “freshman 15” study? Did you struggle with weight gain as a first-year college student?