Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Dissertation (UNI Access Only)


Adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors in emerging adulthood (Arnett, 2000) provide opportunities to impact current and future health outcomes through development of preventative health behaviors and habits. The purpose of this study was to explore the development of sustainable health and wellness habits in emerging adults through courses in postsecondary institutions. When examining the developmental period from adolescence to early adulthood, Nelson et al. (2008) suggested emerging adulthood is a risky time period for developing poor diet, physical activity practices, and obesity. With trends showing students enrolled in postsecondary institutions continue to engage in sedentary and unsupportive health behaviors, it would make sense that “universities need to design and employ effective ways to encourage students to engage in activities that promote wellness” (Lothes, 2020, p. 29).

The current qualitative study drew on elements of case study and phenomenology as methods to explore the experience of health and wellness curriculum interventions on the health and wellness habits of emerging adults in postsecondary institutions. Participants were emerging adults, 18–25 years of age, enrolled in a 4-year, postsecondary institution in the Midwest that offered preexisting coursework in health and wellness education. This study used the theory of emerging adulthood (Arnett, 2000) to provide rationale behind why health and wellness education was important during postsecondary education and the integrative behavior model (Montano & Kasprzyk, 2014) to understand the behavior change process in this population.

Findings from this study indicated course content grounded in health and wellness may provide heightened self-awareness of internal and external influences allowing for iii students to shift thinking, enhance knowledge, and impact behaviors surrounding health and wellness in small ways. Analysis of interviews, observations, and artifacts showed emerging adults may adopt sustainable health and wellness habits in the form of cognitive changes in thought patterns or small shifts in behavior. These changes are promoted by the enhancement of self-awareness through opportunities to apply knowledge in coursework and educational experiences offered by taking a course in health and wellness. Emerging adults’ self-awareness, amplified through the educational experience, allows students to make progress towards their unique goals as they form new cognitive and behavioral patterns throughout the duration of a course in health and wellness.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Educational Psychology, Foundations, and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

David Schmid, Chair, Dissertation Committee

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (xiii, 211 pages)

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