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Introduction-Stress is body’s response to danger or perceived threat. M.B., B.S. students, particularly the freshers are more prone to stress due to academic pressure, cultural and environmental shock and a large number of uncertainties. In addition, the girls are more emotionally attached to their family so the factors like homesickness and worries for the family members prominently contributed to the stress. The first M.B., B.S. hosteller girls thus constituted a relevant subject group for the study.
Aims and objectives-The aims of the study were to list the factors which caused stress and to determine the behavioral patterns that led to overweight/obesity due to stress. The objective was to illustrate a relationship between stress and the development of overweight/obesity.
Methods-The study was retrospective and observational. It included stress and anthropometric assessment which were done simultaneously. Stress levels were determined using two 4-pointers scales-namely, the standard Perceived Stress Scale (Levenstein et al) and a self prepared Diet History Questionnaire. The Perceived Stress Scale included the factors like worries, tension, joy and demands and the aggregate gave the Perceived Stress Index (PSI). The anthropometric data included B.M.I. calculation(according to the WHO BMI recommendations in adult Europids, 1998), waist –to –hip ratio and weight comparsion, taking into account the weight during the study with that at the time of admission. The study was conducted for 2 months time period from April 2009 to June 2009.
Results-Among the 65 girls, 41 showed an increase in weight. The prevalence of overweight and obesity was found to be 21.53% and 3.07% respectively. The multiple regression analysis of weight comparison and PSI showed a significant effect of PSI on weight during the stay in hostel (F=6.833, p<0.05). A regression study between Diet History Questionnaire and PSI was highly significant (F=69.227, p<0.001). A positive correlation between PSI and BMI was obtained. Considering the high degree of association between emotional eating and external eating, it would have been optimal to control emotional eating, however due to space constraints we were not able to do so. Secondly, the results of questionnaire are self-reported by the girls, so are prone to biasing.
Conclusion-The study confirmed the general impression that there is a considerable amount of stress among the medical students. Among the four factors of the Perceived Stress Scale – “demands” was rated the highest, i.e. maximum students felt that they had many things to do and expectations pressurized them. The girls confirmed that they felt nostalgic and longed for the protective environment of school and home. They also found difficulty in sharing emotions which they attributed to the lack of informal conversations. According to the results of Diet history questionnaire, they exhibited behavioral shifts like -an increased consumption of food when stressed, coupled with an increased frequency of emotional eating and sedentary lifestyle. The positive correlation between PSI and B.M.I demonstrated that as stress increases the development of overweight/obesity occurs.
Perceived Stress Index, behavioural shift, emotional eating.