First-generation college students are less likely than continuing-generation students to reach graduation. Many colleges are working to bridge this divide, however little is known about the physical health of first-generation students. As physical health is associated with academic success, it is important to understand the beliefs and behaviors underpinning the physical health of first-generation college students. The present study examined the relationship between a specific type of unhealthy belief, compensatory health beliefs (CHBs), and the health behaviors of college students, with a focus on eating practices. Participants were first- and continuing-generation students attending a liberal arts institution who completed an online questionnaire assessing CHBs, eating behaviors, and demographics. Higher levels of unhealthy CHBs predicted less healthy eating in first-generation students, but not continuing-generation students. These findings suggest that first-generation students are uniquely influenced by their health beliefs and should be considered in a holistic approach to encouraging academic success in first-generation students.

Author's Biographies

KRISTEL M. GALLAGHER is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Thiel College. Her primary research interests include the health and wellness of first-generation college students, translating psychological theory into practical approaches to health behavior change, and the development and assessment of experiential/applied learning approaches in the classroom.

This is an original work


This work has not been previously published


IRB approval verification