Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How college shapes health behaviors

A new study finds that students at more selective colleges are less likely to smoke. Credit: iStockphoto.com.

David Glenn writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about a forthcoming Economics of Education Review paper:

Jason M. Fletcher, an assistant professor of public health at Yale University and a scholar at the Columbia University Population Research Center, and David E. Frisvold, an assistant professor of economics at Emory University, looked at nearly 4,000 people who have participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. They found that people who attended selective colleges (defined as those whose median SAT scores were in the top quartile) were less likely to smoke, to be obese, and to eat fast food than were those who attended less-selective colleges, both while they were in college and when they were in their mid-20s. (To those who might object that students at selective colleges are more likely to have been socialized into healthy habits as children, Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Frisvold controlled for a long list of individual variables, including smoking and obesity during high school. They believe that they have isolated the effects of the colleges themselves.)

As in [another Economics of Education Review study], binge drinking was an exception here. Selective colleges seem, if anything, to be associated with more drinking.

Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Frisvold are most interested in discovering the mechanisms through which education might influence health behaviors. Their new paper did not find any clear patterns, but they suggest that "health literacy and health knowledge as well as peer effects during college" are the most likely channels.

Read the whole article.

Campus conversations about smoking

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