Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The purpose of the current study was to evaluate two interventions proposed to improve health behaviors and decrease weight gain among first-year university students, utilizing a health risk appraisal (HRA), telephone health coaching, and monthly health-related emails. The HRA assessed and provided individualized feedback for several behavioral health risk factors. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: (1) Health coaching (HC): HRA with individualized feedback, health coaching and health-related emails; (2) Minimal intervention: HRA with individualized feedback and monthly health-related emails; and (3) Control: HRA without feedback. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) tests were performed, adjusting for baseline levels for the following outcomes: physical activity, dietary habits, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference. In addition, multiple regressions were conducted using baseline measures to prospectively predict behavioral health measures at post-assessment.

Results showed that there were no significant differences in health behaviors from baseline to post-assessment when comparing the three experimental groups. However, when the HC and minimal groups were combined and compared to controls, results showed group differences. Both groups showed decreases in vigorous physical activity from baseline to post-assessment, however the combined intervention group reported significantly more vigorous physical activity than controls. Additionally, results showed that the combined intervention group had significantly greater BMI values at the post-assessment than the control group. Results of the multiple regressions revealed that the following baseline variables predicted changes at post-assessment: baseline strength training positively predicted moderate physical activity; baseline perceived stress and fruit intake negatively predicted vigorous physical activity; male gender was associated with higher high fat food intake; and baseline waist circumference positively predicted BMI. Contrary to expectations, positive outcomes were not found with the interventions evaluated. This may have been due to a low number of health coaching contacts compared to previous studies as well as a potential volunteer bias because participants showed lower rates of obesity and overweight compared to young adults in the general population. However, the results also revealed prospective predictors that can identify students more likely to make behavioral health changes and can be used to inform health promotion interventions for college students.

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Psychology Commons