Association between Stress and Dietary Behaviours among Undergraduate Students in Kuwait Gender Differences

Background: Studies have shown that a significant proportion of university students globally suffer from stress. Although many studies have reported an association between psychological stress and dietary behaviour, findings remain inconclusive. To date, no research in Kuwait has assessed the prevalence of stress and its relationship with dietary pattern among university students.
Objectives: This study was designed to determine the extent of stress among undergraduate students in Kuwait University and to examine the relationship between dietary behaviours and stress.
Methods: A total of 407 (164 males and 243 females) undergraduate students, aged ≥ 18 years, from 4 colleges of Kuwait University participated in this cross sectional study. Data were collected using a self-administered questionnaire consisting of three sections: socio demographic information, stress measures and a 7-day food frequency questionnaire.
Results: Of the total participants, 43% were found to suffer from some level of stress, with slightly more females (44%) than males (40.9%). When examined the severity of stress level, 28.4% of the females and 22% of the males had moderate to severe form of stress. Stressed female students were more likely to eat fast foods (OR 1.75; 95% CI: 1.02-3:00), snacks (OR 2.0; 95% CI: 1.16-3:43) and beverages (OR 2.28; 95% CI: 1.30-3.98) than unstressed female students. For male students, none of the food consumption groups were associated with stress.
Conclusions: These results show a clear difference in food selection patterns between stressed male and female students with stress being strongly associated with unhealthy food selection among female students than male students. These findings emphasize the importance for the development of specific intervention programs to decrease stress and improve healthy behaviour especially among female university students and thus reduce the potential negative implications of stress on health.
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