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Front. Public Health | doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2018.00120

Behavioral health risk profiles of undergraduate university students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland: A cluster analysis

Walid El Ansari1, 2, 3*, Derrick Ssewanyana4 and  Christiane Stock5
  • 1University of Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
  • 2Qatar University, Qatar
  • 3University of Skövde, Sweden
  • 4Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • 5University of Southern Denmark Odense, Denmark

Background: Limited research has explored clustering of lifestyle behavioral risk factors (BRFs) among university students. This study aimed to explore clustering of BRFs and the composition of clusters, and to study the association of the clusters with self-rated health and perceived academic performance.

Method: We assessed (BRFs), namely tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, illicit drug use, unhealthy nutrition, and inadequate sleep, using a self-administered general Student Health Survey among 3706 undergraduates at seven UK universities.

Results: A two-step cluster analysis generated: Cluster 1 (The high physically active and health conscious) with very high health awareness/ consciousness, good nutrition and physical activity (PA), and relatively low ATOD (alcohol, tobacco & other drug) use. Cluster 2 (The abstinent) had very low ATOD use, high health awareness, good nutrition, and medium high PA. Cluster 3 (The moderately health conscious) included the highest regard for healthy eating, second highest fruit/vegetable consumption, and moderately high ATOD use. Cluster 4 (The risk taking) showed the highest ATOD use, were the least health conscious, least fruit consuming and attached the least importance on eating healthy. Compared to the healthy cluster (Cluster 1), students in other clusters had lower self-rated health, and particularly students in the risk taking cluster (Cluster 4) reported lower academic performance. These associations were stronger for men than for women. Of the four clusters, Cluster 4 had the youngest students.

Conclusion: Our results suggested that prevention among university students should address multiple BRFs simultaneously.

Keywords: college students, gender, lifestyles, multiple behaviour, risk factor, cluster analyses

Received: 09 Nov 2017; Accepted: 10 Apr 2018.

Edited by:

Roger A. Harrison, University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Iffat Elbarazi, United Arab Emirates University, United Arab Emirates
Bosiljka S. Djikanovic, Faculty of Medicine, University of Belgrade, Serbia  

Copyright: © 2018 El Ansari, Ssewanyana and Stock. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Walid El Ansari, University of Gloucestershire, Gloucester GL2 9HW, Cheltenham, United Kingdom,