The Relationship between Loneliness, Dietary Behaviors, and Physical Activity in College Students



Jiang, Li

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Background: Loneliness, a common negative emotion, is prevalent in college students. Studies have reported a relationship between loneliness and bodyweight in young adults, but there is a lack of studies examining loneliness, dietary behaviors, and physical activity in college students. The underlying factor in the relationship between loneliness and bodyweight is not fully understood. Purpose: This study aims to fill the gap in current literature by analyzing relationships between loneliness, dietary behaviors, and physical activity to determine whether loneliness is associated with unhealthy dietary and physical behaviors that would potentially influence bodyweight in college students. Methods: Cross-sectional data was retrieved from Mason: Health Starts Here, an ongoing longitudinal cohort study of incoming first-year students at GMU starting in 2019. Dietary intake was assessed using the Diet History Questionnaire III (DHQ-III). Loneliness and physical activity were assessed by surveys. Chi-square, Independent T-Test, and binary logistic regression were used to analyze the relationships between loneliness levels, dietary behaviors, and physical activity. Results: Two hundred and sixty-four students completed the DHQ-III, loneliness, and physical activity surveys. Loneliness score (ranging from a score of 4-12) was categorized into low, medium, and high level groups for chi-squared test and regression analysis. High-level loneliness was a significant predictor of fat intake in obese (p = 0.034) students and also associated with physical inactivity regardless of gender (p = 0.002). Research results also showed a relationship between high level loneliness and increased sugar intake for female students (p = 0.038). Conclusions: High level of loneliness has associations with both fat and added sugar intake and physical inactivity. Additionally, loneliness was potentially associated with saturated fat intake. These unhealthy dietary behaviors and physical inactivity may relate to unhealthy bodyweight in college students. The study results lay a foundation for future studies to examine the relationship between loneliness and dietary behaviors.



Loneliness, Dietary behaviors, Physical activities, College students, Unhealthy bodyweight, Negative emotion