Background: Obesity is a growing epidemic among university students, and the high levels of stress reported by this population could contribute to this issue. Singular relationships between perceived stress; engagement in restrained, uncontrolled, and emotional eating; sleep; dietary risk; and body mass index (BMI) have been reported in the current body of literature; however, these constructs interact with each other, and the complex relationships among them are infrequently examined. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to explore the complex relationships between these constructs using mediation and moderation analyses stratified by gender. Methods: A cross-sectional study, enrolling university students from the United States (U.S.), the Netherlands, South Korea, Malaysia, Ireland, Ghana, and China, was conducted between October 2020 and January 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Perceived stress; maladaptive eating behaviors including restrained, uncontrolled, and emotional eating; sleep duration and quality; dietary risk; and BMI were assessed using validated questionnaires, which were distributed through an online platform. Results: A total of 1392 students completed the online survey (379 male, 973 female, and 40 who self-identified as √¢‚Ç¨≈ìother√¢‚Ç¨¬ù). Uncontrolled and emotional eating mediated the relationship between perceived stress and dietary risk for both males and females; higher sleep quality weakened this relationship among female students but not males. Emotional eating mediated the relationship between perceived stress and BMI for both males and females, but higher sleep quality weakened this relationship only among females. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that students in higher education are likely to benefit from interventions to reduce uncontrolled and emotional eating. Programs that improve sleep quality, especially during highly stressful periods, may be helpful.
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Du, Chen; Adjepong, Mary; Zan, Megan Chong Hueh; Cho, Min Jung; Fenton, Jennifer I.; Hsiao, Pao Ying; Keaver, Laura; Lee, HeeSoon; Ludy, Mary-Jon; Shen, Wan; Swee, Winnie Chee Siew; Thrivikraman, Jyothi; Amoah-Agyei, Felicity; de Kanter, Emilie; Wang, Wenyan; and Tucker, Robin M., "Gender Differences in the Relationships between Perceived Stress, Eating Behaviors, Sleep, Dietary Risk, and Body Mass Index" (2022). Public and Allied Health Faculty Publications. 28.