31st Jan 2024

Background: Recently, the prevalence of adverse cardiometabolic health outcomes has increased in UK young adults. University students now make up a significant proportion of this population and their health-related behaviours are poorer than aged-matched normative data. Additionally, students experience negative changes in anthropometric outcomes during their university career, but the influence of university life on cardiometabolic health outcomes is currently unclear. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of adverse cardiometabolic health outcomes in undergraduate university students and assess differences between year groups. Methods: Data were collected across three years (2021-2023). Three independent cohorts of students’ (n=1,299) completed five physiological tests. One-way ANOVAs were used to assess differences between year groups. Results: 34.5% were classified as having overweight or obesity and 19.0% had a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ waist circumference. 11.0% had a high waist to hip ratio (WHR) while 25.5% had a high waist to height ratio (WHtR). 12.7% were classified as hypertensive and 3.3% had a [HbA1c] ≥42mmol/mol, indicating impaired glucose regulation. The prevalence of overweight/obesity, high waist circumference and hypertension was highest in 3rd year students whereas the prevalence of high WHR, WHtR and [HbA1c] was highest in 1st year students. Third years had higher diastolic blood pressure than 2nd years, and 1st years had higher HbA1c than 2nd and 3rd years (P<0.01). Conclusion: Overall, these results indicate that the proportion of students presenting with adverse outcomes of cardiometabolic health is greater than or comparable to age-matched normative data. These data provide an update on the prevalence of adverse cardiometabolic health outcomes in UK university students and demonstrate that differences exist between year groups. Further longitudinal data is required to assess changes across a typical undergraduate degree program.

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