Multiple health risk behaviors in German first year university students

Stefan Keller, Jason E. Maddock, Wolfgang Hannöver, J. René Thyrian, Heinz Dieter Basler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


Multiple health risk behaviors have been identified as a problem in young adults which includes university students. The goals of this study included assessing the prevalence of major health risk behaviors in a cohort of German first year university students, analyzing the clustering of these behaviors and assessing readiness to change across multiple behaviors. A total of 1262 students from the schools of law, teaching and medicine at a German university participated in a voluntary and anonymous survey in 2005. The study assessed indicators and readiness for change regarding fruit and vegetable consumption, exercise, smoking and binge drinking as well as sociodemographic variables. Confirming the hypotheses, prevalences for risk behaviors were high; over 95% ate less than five servings of fruits and vegetables, 60% did not exercise sufficiently, 31% were current smokers and 62% reported binge drinking. Only 2% had none, 10.5% had one, 34.5% had two, 34.8% had three, and 18.2% showed all four risk behaviors. Readiness for behavior change was very low across multiple risk behavior combinations, especially for reducing binge drinking and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. Medical students showed slightly more positive patterns than other students. The results indicate the need for addressing health behaviors in the student population of this university. If these findings can be replicated in other universities, programs that promote individual behavior change as well as changes in environmental conditions in the university environment are necessary to address this urgent problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-195
Number of pages7
JournalPreventive Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Diet
  • Drinking behavior
  • Exercise
  • Health behavior
  • Health promotion
  • Medical students
  • Multiple health behavior
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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