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Healthiest college students keep weight down, spirit up: study

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-11-08 11:15

CHICAGO -- A positive outlook and Body Mass Index (BMI) both contributed significantly to good health, researchers from the University of Michigan and China's Fudan University found.

Researchers asked 925 students of China's Fudan University to rate four indicators of psychological well-being: hope, gratitude, life satisfaction and subjective happiness.

They also calculated students' BMI based on self-reported body weight and height. To assess physical and mental health, researchers asked students various questions about their sleep quality and how often they felt healthy, energized, worthless, fidgety, anxious or depressed.

Taken together, the four psychological variables and BMI accounted for 41 percent of the total variance in health. Individually, subjective happiness had the most significant impact, followed by hope, and then BMI.

To be specific, gratitude and life satisfaction didn't influence overall health. Interestingly, BMI was correlated with physical and overall health, but not with hope, gratitude, life satisfaction or mental health.

In light of the intense academic pressure Chinese college students face, researchers were surprised by how many students rated themselves happy and healthy. This could point to China's emphasis on well-being in schools.

"They have structured, organized physical educations classes," said Weiyun Chen, associate professor of health and fitness at the UM School of Kinesiology.

These numbers may look different for college students in the United States, where two of three adults are overweight or obese, and 17 percent of youth aged 2-19 are considered obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

By contrast, 714 of 925 Fudan students surveyed, or 77.2 percent, were classified as normal body weight, while only 83 students were overweight, and just 5 students were obese, with 123 students considered underweight.

There are several limitations to the study: all students were recruited from one university, and the results cannot be generalized; the research design prevented establishing causal effects; and the study did not account for gender differences.

The study has been published in Biomedical Journal of Scientific and Technical Research.

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