Moving away from home to attend university may not be such a good thing after all, a new study suggests, for the challenge leaving the family home and adapting to a new social environment may actually have a negative effect on a student's health. Researchers carrying out the study at the University of Alberta found that this is especially true for female students, for they are three time more likely to report symptoms of binge eating as compared to those students living with parents during their first year of university studies.
"Few studies have explored the links between the challenges associated with the transition of entering university and eating problems," Erin Barker, who conducted the research while completing her PhD at the University of Alberta and current professor at Wisconsin’s Beloit College.
Barker carried out a study in which 101 full-time female first-year students at a large North American university completed a web-based daily checklist of health behaviours (i.e. sleeping, eating, exercise, alcohol use) for 14 consecutive days over one of four two-week periods in the first three months of fall term.
Variables studied included binge eating symptoms, body dissatisfaction, living away from home and number of class hours per week. The findings of the research revealed that female students who stayed away from family were more prone to binge eating as compared to students who stayed with family.
"Moving away from home and poor social adjustment may reflect decreases in social support and increases in interpersonal stress that for some young women contribute to eating problems. In the future, research should study whether adjustment to the transition to university contributes to binge eating in young men as well," Barker said.