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The Relation between Emotional Eating and Perceived Stress among Students in Tertiary Education in Oman: A Single-Center Study

Asma Al Shidhani, Asma Al Salmani, Tahani Al Malki, Bashair Al Shukaili, Aseel Al Toubi, Moon Fai Chan, Lara Al Harthi, Nasser Al Sibani, Muna Al Saadoon, Angie Cucchi, Samir Al Adawi

Objectives: Preliminary studies suggested that the high rates of stress are increasingly prevalent in students in tertiary education in the Arabian Gulf countries and that their emotional eating is often triggered by stress. Nevertheless, there is a dearth of studies on this topic and Oman is no exception. In this study, we intended to examine the prevalence of emotional eating and perceived stress in Omani college students and to clarify the relationship between their emotional eating and sociodemographic and risk factors among the population in the college students in Oman. Methods: We used Salzburg Emotional Eating Scale and Perceived Stress Scale to assess emotional eating and variations in perceived stress, respectively. We also study their sociodemographic and risk factors. Results: A total of 422 students took part in the study, with the age of 20.6 ± 1.8 (mean ± standard deviation) years. Of all students, 85.8% (n = 362) were reported to have emotional eating and 78.7% of the sample were reported to experience stress. The multivariate logistic analysis showed that body mass index (BMI) and the student’s major subjects were the significant risk factors. Students who majored in science/engineering/agriculture (odds ratio [OR] = 0.926, p < 0.001) and arts/business/law were 3.1 times (OR = 3.115, p < 0.05) and 2.3 times (OR = 2.347, p < 0.05) were significantly engaged in emotional eating as compared to those majoring in medicine/nursing. Students who are underweight (BMI < 18) were 3.9 times (OR = 3.984, p < 0.05) were also significantly more to engage in emotional eating than those students who were overweight/obese (BMI 25+). Conclusion: In this study, we found that both rates of emotional eating and stress were high among college students in Oman. Contrary to international trends, underweight students (BMI < 18) were more prone to engaging in emotional eating than overweight/obese students (BMI 25+) in our study sample. This suggests that there is likely to be subcultural diversity or artifacts that are intimately tied to emotional eating. More studies on this discrepant finding are warranted.
Key Word anthropomorphic factors, college students, Perceived Stress Scale, Salzburg Emotional Eating Scale
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