Gender differences related to the health and lifestyle patterns of university students

07 October 2014

One of the transitions from adolescence to adulthood is the admission of students to a university setting. Accompanying this transition is a new-found independence which results in university students having more autonomy over their lifestyles and behaviours. The assumption in this setting is that many students are likely to engage in unhealthy and risky lifestyle behaviours which include alcohol abuse, tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy dietary practices which may adversely affect their health in the long-term. In South Africa, research with regard to health and lifestyle patterns amongst both male and female young adults remains limited. The purpose of this study was, therefore, to investigate whether male and female students differed in relation to their health and lifestyles, as well as the related consequences thereof. A convenience sampling technique was used, where questionnaires were administered to 400 students at three university campuses in the Gauteng province of South Africa. An exploratory data analysis for health factors was used in order to retrieve relevant factors from a factor and regression analysis. Differences in gender were tested by using cross-tabulation for descriptive statistics and Chi-square analysis. The study found no statistically-significant differences between genders relating to the three emerging health factors, namely Gastrointestinal, Upper Respiratory Infections and Total Health Problems. However, descriptive statistics of lifestyle habits revealed that more female students exercised, smoked and binged on food than their male counterparts. It was also found that female students reported a higher incidence of stress than male students. It was concluded that university students do indeed engage in behaviours and lifestyles that place them at risk for serious health problems.