Health in University Students

Project Abstract

College students in the United States face unique health risks. Namely, problematic substance use, poor nutrition, low sleep quality, and low rates of exercise. Such problematic health behaviors in this critical period of development may lead to poor physical health and behavioral health problems in later years. Research increasingly shows interventions utilizing individualized approaches and intrinsic motivation lead to more sustained pro-health behavior change than traditional group interventions. Values-centered Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) interventions are a useful framework for development of individualized, effective interventions. In ACT, valuing is always individualized, where valuing changes the perception of the consequences that will follow certain activities, making these more or less reinforcing for the individual. However, there has been limited attention given to personalized or values-based health interventions for the college population. This study will implement a widely used, values-based intervention and the creation and 10-day dissemination of participant-generated valuing statements for health behaviors.

In this study, participants will first complete a battery of questionnaires assessing diet quality, physical activity level, sleep habits, alcohol and nicotine use, and psychological processes and symptoms. They will indicate which domain of health is most personally important to them to establish what health behaviors might be most functionally related to their health valuing. Participants will then be randomized to one of two conditions: valuing and informational control. Those in the valuing intervention condition will listen to an audio recording guiding them through the process of self-reflection on personal values surrounding their physical health, followed by a list of commonly held health values. Both the audio recording and attached list have been adapted from widely used clinical tools created by ACT practitioners (Harris, 2008; Wilson & Sandoz, 2010). Participants will then be directed to a new page where they will write an ideographic motivational statement detailing their values around physical health. Those in the informational control condition will listen to an audio recording which will give them guidelines for behaviors important to their physical wellbeing and recommendations to help behavior engagement

Within a week, participants will start a 10-day period of daily texts. Every morning for 10 days those in the intervention condition will be sent their own ideographic valuing statement on health and those in the informational control condition will be sent a recommendation for engaging in healthy behaviors. Every evening, all participants will be sent with 6 questions asking about each domain of health covered in this study. After this 10-day period, participants will complete the same survey measures administered at baseline.

It is predicted that those in the valuing intervention condition will show greater standardized improvements in selected health outcomes of most personal importance relative to the control condition. It is also predicted that changes in values awareness and engagement will mediate the relation between intervention condition and the standardized change score in selected health outcome of most personal importance, with participants in the intervention condition experiencing improvements in their chosen domain via the indirect effect of the valuing process.

Funding Type

Research Grant

Academic College

Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology


General Experimental Psychology


Masters of Science




Michael J. Bordieri, PhD

Academic College

Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology

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