Stress and Unhealthy Eating in a College Sample

Molly Cvetovac, Samantha Hamar


The obesity epidemic in the United States has caused concerns among health professionals and the lay public alike. Researchers have investigated the factors that contribute to unhealthy eating, an underlying factor in obesity. Previous research has established a strong relationship between stress and unhealthy eating in both children1, 6 and adults9. Due to the high-stress nature of the college environment, the present study sought to confirm the relationship between stress and unhealthy eating in a sample of college students. Additionally, the present study explored whether or not using food as a coping mechanism contributed to the relationship between stress and unhealthy eating. Surveys were passed out to 114 university students in their core classes. Stress levels were measured with an adapted version of The Perceived Stress Scale2 and an investigator-developed questionnaire was used to measure eating habits. The results indicated a significant relationship between high levels of stress and the increased consumption of unhealthy foods. Further analysis also revealed a strong association between the use of food as a coping mechanism and eating more when stressed. These results suggest that interventions aimed at stress reduction may be useful in the fight against unhealthy eating and obesity. Future studies should address additional factors that may contribute to high levels of stress and unhealthy eating such the cost of food and convenience of preparation.


Stress; unhealthy eating; college

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