The stress-eating relationship : an honors thesis (HONRS 499)

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Meyer, Michaela A.
Kandiah, Jayanthi
Issue Date
Thesis (B.S.)
Honors College
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The purpose of this study was to identify any changes in appetite or food selection that occur among college students when they experience psychological distress. A total of 315 students were surveyed, and 304 of the surveys were usable. The subjects included 280 females, 23 males, and one subject did not indicate gender. A survey was posted on the internet. The survey only allowed access to Ball State University students who have a valid username and password. The survey asked questions including demographics, stress level, typical eating habits and eating habits when stressed. The results indicated that most subjects (79.9%) experience a change in appetite when stressed with over half of the subjects (50.3%) experiencing an increased appetite. Those subjects that experienced an increase in appetite chose significantly more sweet dishes than those who experienced a decreased appetite or no change in appetite. They also chose significantly more mixed dishes than those with a decreased appetite. Although 78.6% of subjects claim they typically try to make healthy eating choices, 60.3% of these subjects do not make the same attempt when stressed. This study found that a larger percentage of women than men claimed to have an increased appetite when stressed while a larger percentage of men than women claimed they experience no change in appetite when stressed. Also, a larger percentage of overweight subjects claimed they experience an increased appetite when stressed compared to normal weight and underweight subjects. However, neither of these results was significant. This study found no difference in eating habits and food choices between restrained and unrestrained eaters. The information in this study is helpful to health professional who address stress level and/or eating habits in their clients; however, it poses many new questions that require further study.