Young adults' BMI and changes in romantic relationship status during the first semester of college

Irene van Woerden, Alexandra Brewis, Daniel Hruschka, Genevieve Dunton, Marc A. Adams, Meg Bruening

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4 Scopus citations


Purpose Identify how higher Body Mass Index (BMI) and weight discrimination are associated with romantic relationship formation and termination in young adults, and if the association was consistent for males and females. Methods First-year students (N = 1096) at entry to university (Time 1) provided BMI and self-reports of weight discrimination and romantic relationship status (in a relationship vs single); 550 were successfully resampled four months later (Time 2). Logistic generalized estimating equations (GEEs) examined if Time 1 relationship status was predicted by BMI and weight discrimination. Logistic GEEs were used to determine if Time 1 BMI and weight discrimination predicted Time 2 relationship status for the strata of students in, and out, of a relationship at Time 1. Results At baseline, students were less likely to be in a relationship if they had a higher BMI (OR = 0.94, 95% CI = 0.92, 0.96) or reported weight discrimination (OR = 0.69, 95% CI = 0.53, 0.90). When stratified by gender, the association between higher BMI and weight discrimination with relationship status was only observed for females. Longitudinally, a BMI-based selection effect was observed for romantic relationship formation, but not termination. Of the students who were single at Time 1, each one unit higher baseline BMI decreased the odds of the student transitioning to a relationship by 9% at Time 2 (OR = 0.91, 95% CI = 0.85, 0.96). When stratified by gender the association of higher BMI decreased odds of relationship formation was only significant for females. No weight discrimination differences for selection in or out of a romantic relationship were observed. Conclusions These findings suggest a weight-related selection effect for romantic relationship initiation, but not termination, in young female adults with lower BMIs. Weight discrimination was not associated with romantic relationship initiation or termination in this sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0230806
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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