Background: Earlier studies on stress and obesity have not considered coping in situations involving stress. This study examines the associations between stress-related eating and drinking and obesity and the factors predicting this behavior. Predictive factors include risk factors for adult obesity, longitudinal socioeconomic status, and perceived social support.
Methods: A longitudinal, population-based study of 2,359 men and 2,791 women born in 1966 in Northern Finland was conducted.
Results: The body mass index at 31 years was highest among stress-driven eaters and drinkers, especially among women. Stress-driven eaters tended to eat sausages, hamburgers and pizza, and chocolate more frequently than other people. Stress-driven eaters consumed more alcohol than other people. The best predictors of stress-related eating and drinking among men age 31 years were being single or divorced, a long history of unemployment, an academic degree, and a low level of occupational education. Among women, the best predictor was a lack of emotional support.
Conclusion: Programs aimed at preventing and treating obesity should cover the way in which people deal with emotions, ways of achieving greater emotional support, and strategies for handling stress caused by unemployment or work.
Copyright 2002 American Health Foundation and Elsevier Science.