Academic journal article College Student Journal

Disordered Eating Behaviors, Depression, Anxiety and Stress among Malaysian University Students

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Disordered Eating Behaviors, Depression, Anxiety and Stress among Malaysian University Students

Article excerpt

The aim of this study was to examine the relationships between depression, anxiety and stress with disordered eating among university students. The Eating Attitudes Test-26 (EAT-26) and Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21) were administered on 584 Malaysian university students (59.4% females and 40.6% males). About one in five participants (18.2%) were at risk of eating disorders. Females had significantly higher proportion of at risk of eating disorders (21.3%) compared to males (13.5%). There was no sex difference in mean EAT-26 scores. The prevalence of depression, anxiety and stress of moderate severity or above were 29.3%, 55.0% and 21.6% respectively. No sex differences in depression and anxiety scores were found but females had significantly higher stress score compared to males. There was significant relationship between EAT-26 and DASS-21 subscales. Further, no significant interaction effect was found for sex and ethnicity with EAT-26 and DASS-21 subscales. The prevalence of at risk of eating disorders, depression, anxiety and stress among university students were high. There were positive correlations between depression, anxiety, and stress with disordered eating. Further studies on their associated risks are warranted.

Keywords: Anxiety, depression, disordered eating behaviors, Malaysian university students, stress

Introduction

Eating has become one of the most important health topics because of the increasing prevalence and incidence rates of eating disorders among different groups of populations (Buyukgoze-Kavas, 2007). Eating disorder is the most prevalent problem affecting young adults nowadays, especially among female university students (Berg, Frazier & Sherr, 2009). More than 90% of the eating disorder cases were believed to have occurred in individuals aged 25 or below (Sanlier, Yabanci & Alyakut, 2008). Cross cultural studies suggested that Asian university students were equally susceptible or even at higher risk of eating disorders compared to their Western counterparts (Jennings, Forbes, McDermott & Hulse, 2006; Madanat, Hawks & Novilla, 2006; Sjostedt, Schumaker & Nathawat, 1998) due to exposure to Western cultures (Edman & Yates, 2004). For instance, prevalence of at risk of eating disorders among young adults was 26.7% in Philippine (Madanat et al., 2006), 13.3% in India (Tendulkar et al., 2006), 7.4% in Singapore (Ho, Tai, Lee, Cheng & Liow, 2006) and 5.1% in Japan (Makino, Hashizume, Yasushi, Tsuboi & Dennerstein, 2006). These findings indicate that Asian students are as much at risk of eating disorders as their Western counterparts. Thus, it is important to examine disordered eating behaviors among young adults in Asia.

Besides being at risk of eating disorders, young adults especially university students are also vulnerable to the development of mental health problems. For instance, depression is a serious public health problem among young adults (Adewuya, Ola, Aloba, Mapayi & Oginni, 2006). They also experience high levels of stress (Schleicher, Harris, Catley & Nazir, 2009) and may try to cope with these unpleasant exposures by excessive eating (Cooley, Toray, Valdez & Tee, 2007). A recent longitudinal study among American university students showed that more than a third of the students had mental health problems (Zivin, Eisenberg, Gollust & Golberstein, 2009). In Malaysia, the pressure of living away from home among university students may increase their risk of suffering from depression, anxiety, stress and disordered eating. Moreover, they may also come upon personal, family, social, financial, and academic pressures (Khor, Cobiac & Skrzypiec, 2002) which have to be resolved without help and guidance from their parents. Additionally, a university environment precipitates high stress and anxiety that may contribute to eating problems (Sepulveda, Carrobles & Gandarillas, 2008).

Studies showed significant relationships between depression, anxiety, stress and eating problems among university students. …

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