Understanding the determinants of stress-induced eating – A qualitative study

Shina Leow, James A. Dimmock, Kym J. Guelfi, Jacqueline A. Alderson, Ben Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The relationship between stress and food consumption is complex and often characterised by substantial between- and within-person variation. From a theoretical and practical perspective, more research is needed to improve our understanding of the factors that influence this relationship. The aim of this study was to identify those factors, and to derive insight into the nature of their effects on the relationship between stress and food consumption. Using semi-structured interviews, 41 adult participants (M ± SD age = 26.7 ± 6.3 yr, BMI = 22.9 ± 3.0 kg/m2) were invited to reflect on their food consumption following stressor exposure, and to elaborate on the factors that influence stress-induced eating behaviour. Reflexive thematic analyses revealed insight into the different ways in which individuals respond to stress in terms of food quantity and choices, and more significantly, highlighted a range of factors that may influence stress-induced eating behaviours. These factors included the intensity and/or nature of the stressor, aspects of prioritisation, rewarding, knowledge of and perceptions about food, normative (e.g., family, friend) influences, automated or habituated behaviours, the availability of food, and selected coping mechanisms. These findings present important directions for researchers seeking to study the variation in stress-induced eating, and may hold substantial practical value by way of informing interventions designed to alleviate unhealthy dietary responses to stress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105318
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


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