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Posted on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 9:11 a.m.

University of Michigan study: Female frosh gain less if roommate is heavy

By Juliana Keeping

Freshmen women who live with a heavier-than-average roommate are less likely to gain weight themselves, a University of Michigan study found.

The study discovered heavier roommates are more likely than average-weight women to diet, exercise, take weight loss supplements and purchase meal plans that limit access to food.

And those behaviors rub off. According to researchers, those with heavier roommates will gain a half a pound on average, while those with average-weight roommates gain 2.5 pounds.


The “Freshman 15” is a myth — the typical freshman will gain 2.5 to 6 pounds.

"It's not really the weight of your roommate that's important, but the behaviors your roommate engages in," Kandice Kapinos, an assistant research scientist at the U-M Institute for Social Research, said in a written statement. "These behaviors are what may really be 'contagious.'"

Kapinos partnered with Marquette University economist Olga Yakusheva to assess college weight gain.

The small study included 144 participants who were randomly assigned roommates. The study authors quizzed them about their eating and exercise habits.

Obesity has increased in adults between the ages of 18 and 29 by 96 percent between 1988 and 2006. That’s the largest percentage increase of all age groups, according to the researchers.

With numbers like those, Kapinos said she hopes the research will have practical implications for both university administrators, as well as public health efforts geared toward reducing obesity.

Juliana Keeping is a health and environment reporter for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter



Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 1:14 p.m.

"Maybe its hard to gain weight because their roommate eats all their food?" Agreed. Also, living with someone who doesn't fit the mold of the way a body should look like, according to the media these days, could keep them away from gaining weight.


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 11:14 a.m.

Very interesting study, could be used in many different applications beyond just roommates, especially in a public health education. With the obesity problem in the US, especially in Michigan, this is an important area.


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 10 a.m.

The grant for this study probably cost over $100K, must be nice to be able to do worthless projects that have no worth to society. 1. If you hang out with kids that do drugs, you'll be likely to do drugs. 2. If you hang out with dogs, you'll get fleas. 3. If you work at Burger King, you'll get fat. 4. If you work at the UM, you'll get senseless projects like these so you can advise administrators what they probably already know, geee.


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 9:14 a.m.

Maybe its hard to gain weight because their roommate eats all their food?


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 9:06 a.m.

Why is this news? Rocks, couches and parrots is surely more entertaining and pertinent, no?


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 8:38 a.m.

whats a frosh??