Nutritional Correlates of Perceived Stress among University Students in Egypt

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Nov 6;12(11):14164-76. doi: 10.3390/ijerph121114164.


Food intake choice and amount might change with stress. However, this has not been examined among Egyptian students. We examined students' stress levels, its correlation with their consumption of a range of food groups, and adherence to dietary guidelines. A cross sectional survey (N = 2810 undergraduates at 11 faculties at Assiut University, Egypt) assessed two composite food intake pattern scores (one unhealthy: sweets, cakes, snacks; and a healthy one: fruits and vegetables), and two indicators of healthy eating (subjective importance of healthy eating; and dietary guideline adherence index). Multiple linear regression tested the associations of stress with two food intake pattern scores and two indicators of healthy eating, controlling for six potential confounders for the sample and separately for males and females. Higher perceived stress score was significantly associated with less frequent food intake of fruit and vegetables in males and females. The association was more pronounced among males than in females. No significant association was observed between the sweets cakes and snacks score and stress. Of the two indicators of healthy eating, the dietary guideline adherence index was not associated with stress, while the subjective judgment of healthy eating was consistently negatively associated with stress. Stress related decreased-eating was present. Recent studies suggest that stress could be associated with either decreased or increased eating depending on the study population, food group, and type of stressor. Further research is necessary to understand stress related over- and undereating.

Keywords: dietary guidelines adherence; healthy eating; stress and food intake; student health.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / psychology
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Egypt
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Perception
  • Sex Factors
  • Snacks / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Universities
  • Vegetables
  • Young Adult