Improving Understanding about Social Influences on Food Choices in College Students: A Pilot Study

  •  Corey Basch    
  •  Michele Grodner    
  •  Lindsay Prewitt    


The impact of social influences on food choices in college settings is of great importance because students are vulnerable to new forming identities at this time. The purpose of this pilot study is to determine the degree to which social influences impact food choices in a sample of college students. A 22-item survey instrument was created to determine the extent to which students have experienced being influenced by others when making food related purchasing decisions. A total of 257 out of a 323 students invited (80% response rate) in 11 sections of a personal health course responded to the survey. The overwhelming majority of respondents were reportedly comfortable ordering whatever they wanted when in the presence of their friends (n=249; 97%). Students were more likely to feel pressure to make a healthy choice than an unhealthy choice if everyone else was (45.1% vs. 31.5%), but fewer felt this way when asked specifically if their friends were ordering (28.4% vs. 21%). Social influences surrounding food choices are a topic that has gained momentum recently, however more research needs to be conducted to determine the reasons why social influences affect certain college students especially in comparing healthy versus unhealthy food choices.

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