Emotional Eating, Stress, Food Purchasing and Consumption among Malaysian Undergraduate Students in Klang Valley during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Wen Shean Mak, Hip Seng Yim, Hui Suan Ng and Shashikala Sivapathy

Faculty of Applied Sciences, UCSI University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

He & Ni Academy, The Boulevard Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Centre for Research and Graduate Studies, University of Cyberjaya, Cyberjaya, Malaysia.

*Corresponding author email: shashikala@ucsiuniversity.edu.my (SS) / hsyim@booyaholdings.com (HSY)


Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia since March 2020. This had led to major lifestyle disruptions including university students, influencing the way they perceive stress and their psychological well-being, which in turn prompted a shift in their behaviour towards food.

Objective(s): This study aims to evaluate the association between stress, emotional eating and food consumption among undergraduate students in Klang Valley during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methodologies: An online 4-part questionnaire was used to evaluate the association between emotional eating, stress, food purchasing behaviour and preferences among 335 Malaysian undergraduate students studied at universities located in the Klang Valley.

Results: About half (48.4%) of the undergraduate students were classified under the high stress group. Male emotional eaters (30.3%) were higher than their female (23.6%) counterparts. A significant association between stress and emotional eating (χ2=7.494, p=0.006) was found among undergraduate students in Klang Valley during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conclusion: The MCO had been found to be associated with the shift in behavioural nutrition among the undergraduate students. This study provides a reference point for further studies on undergraduate health and well-being.

Keywords: COVID-19; MCO; food purchasing; food consumption; emotional eating.