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Open Access Research article

BMI, physical inactivity, cigarette and alcohol consumption in female nursing students: a 5-year comparison

Franziska Lehmann1*, Katharina von Lindeman1, Jörg Klewer2 and Joachim Kugler1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health, Dresden Medical School, Dresden University of Technology, Dresden, Germany

2 Department of Public Health and Health Care Management, University of Applied Sciences Zwickau, Zwickau, Germany

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:82  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-82

Published: 17 April 2014



Nursing staff are often involved in counseling patients with regard to health behavior. Although care promoting healthy lifestyle choices is included in the curriculum of nursing students in Germany, several studies of nursing students have reported a high prevalence of unhealthy behavior. This paper focuses on the behavior of female nursing students with regard to body mass index (BMI), physical activity, and cigarette and alcohol consumption. It describes trends through the comparison of results from 2008 and 2013.


Data was collected in two waves at a regional medical training college. First, 301 nursing students were asked to fill out a 12 page questionnaire on health behavior in 2008. The questioning was repeated in 2013 with 316 participating nursing students using the previous questionnaire.


259 female nursing students completed the questionnaire in 2013. 31.6% of them were either overweight or obese, 28.5% exercised less than once a week, 42.9% smoked between 10 and 20 cigarettes a day and 72.6% drank alcohol, wherefrom 19.7% consumed alcohol in risky quantities. In comparison to the data of 266 female nursing students from 2008, there were significant differences in the BMI and alcohol consumption: The percentage of overweight and obese students and the percentage of alcohol consumers at risk increased significantly.


Health behavior of female nursing students is often inadequate especially in regard to weight and cigarette and alcohol consumption. Strategies are required to promote healthy lifestyle choices.

Nursing students; Health promotion; Alcohol; Cigarettes; Body mass index; Physical activity