Factors associated with stress among first-year undergraduate students attending an Australian university

Patricia C Lee, Faruk Ahmed, Thanya I. Pathirana, Keren Papier

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Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between stress and various socio-demographic, health and behavioural factors among undergraduate students studying in an Australian university. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was carried out among first-year undergraduate students studying at Griffith University. Participants were recruited from four different academic groups (N=728). The questionnaire used in this study comprised of three sections: socio-demographic information, stress scale and a food frequency questionnaire. K-means Cluster analysis was performed to identify the major dietary patterns and multinomial logistic regression analysis was used to examine the factors associated with stress. Results: Nearly 53% of the students had some degree of stress with 37.4% experiencing moderate to severe levels of stress. The factors most strongly associated with having mild or moderate/ severe stress levels included being in a relationship [OR =1.71, 95% CI (1.02-2.87) and OR=1.61, 95% CI (1.06-2.44)], studying a non-health related degree [OR=1.68, 95% CI (1.03-2.73) and OR=1.51, 95% CI (1.04-2.19)], working ≥ 21 hours per week [OR=2.12, 95% CI (1.02-4.40) and OR=2.21, 95% CI (1.32-3.67)], and engaging in an unhealthy dietary pattern [OR=2.67, 95% CI (1.25-5.72) and OR=2.76, 95% CI (1.47-5.16)]. Being a female [OR=1.84, 95% CI (1.25-2.72)], living in a shared accommodation [OR=0.52, 95% CI (0.27-0.98)], rarely exercising [OR=2.64, 95% CI (1.59-4.39)], having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or over [OR=2.03, 95% CI (1.36-3.04)], and engaging in a dietary pattern that was low in protein, fruit and vegetables [OR=1.72, 95% CI (1.06-2.77)] were also associated with having moderate/severe stress levels. Conclusion: This study found that more than half of the undergraduate students had some levels of stress. Both mild and moderate/severe levels of stress were associated with socio-demographic characteristics, risky health behaviours and poor dietary patterns. Our findings reinforce the need to promote healthy behaviours among undergraduate university students in order to maintain good mental health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-24
Number of pages8
JournalFood and Nutrition Report
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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