Perceived stress and depressive symptoms in undergraduate students: The effect of emotional eating
Keywords:Stress, Emotional Eating, post-secondary students, coping, depressive symptoms
With a rise in the prevalence of depression among undergraduate students, it is important to identify potential antecedents and modifiable factors in illness development. One of the most well studied etiological predictors of depression among youth and among young adults is the experience of real or perceived stress. However, research further suggests that the impact of stress on health outcomes may largely depend on the coping strategies employed. Emotional eating is an emotion-focused coping strategy that may be used to minimize negative affect stemming from perceived stress. The objective of this cross-sectional study was to investigate the moderating role of emotional eating in the relationship between perceived stress and depressive symptoms among undergraduate students. A total of 100 undergraduate students (mean age = 20.2 years, 83% female) completed questionnaires that tapped into perceived stress, emotional eating behaviour, and depressive symptoms. Moderation analyses revealed a significant moderation effect (b = .016, t(91) = 2.728, p = .008). Simple slopes showed that the magnitude of the association between perceived stress and depressive symptoms increased from low (b = .092) to moderate (b = .147) to high (b = .201) emotional eating tendencies. Findings suggest that perceived stress and emotional eating may have a synergist association with depressive symptoms among undergraduate students.
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