Researchers asked 925 students to rate four indicators of psychological well-being: hope, gratitude, life satisfaction and happiness.
Staying happy and positive, as well as maintaining body weight may help college students lead a healthy life despite the stress they experience in universities, a study has found.
Research shows that optimists and happy people are healthier overall, enjoying lower blood pressure and less depression and anxiety, among other measures.
However, data on the effect of weight and body mass index (BMI) on physical and mental health are rare - especially among college students, who suffer high rates of anxiety and depression and often neglect physical self-care and exercise.
Researchers from the University of Michigan in the US and Fudan University in China set out to learn the extent to which BMI and positive outlook affect the physical and mental health of college students.
The study, published in the Biomedical Journal of Scientific and Technical Research, found that a positive outlook and BMI both contributed significantly to good health, said Weiyun Chen, associate professor at the University of Michigan.
Researchers asked 925 students to rate four indicators of psychological well-being: hope, gratitude, life satisfaction and subjective happiness.
They also calculated students BMI based on self-reported body weight and height. To assess physical and mental health, researchers asked students various questions about their sleep quality and how often they felt healthy, energised, worthless, fidgety, anxious or depressed.
Chen said that taken together, the four psychological variables and BMI accounted for 41 per cent of the total variance in health. Individually, subjective happiness had the most significant impact, followed by hope, and then BMI.
By themselves, gratitude and life satisfaction did not influence overall health. Also, interestingly, BMI was correlated with physical and overall health, but not with hope, gratitude, life satisfaction or mental health.
In light of the intense academic pressure Chinese college students face, Chen said she was surprised by how many students rated themselves happy and healthy. This could point to Chinas emphasis on well-being in schools.
"They have structured, organised physical educations classes," Chen said.
"Its not just fitness, its a variety of things so you can meet different peoples needs. They realised that emphasizing only academics isnt good for overall health, and that they needed to emphasise the wellness part," she said.
The findings suggest that universities should creatively design wellness programmes and centres that dynamically integrate body, mind and spirit into a seamless unit.