The Relationship Between Stress and Diet Patterns


Psychosocial risk elements influence individual behavior, which in turn impacts health advancement. Negative psychosocial elements can significantly harm health and lead to disparities in health outcomes. Therefore, comprehending the connection between different psychosocial and behavioral elements is fundamental in identifying strategies to modify the psychosocial environment, promoting behaviors that contribute to better health. In this context, the psychosocial factor I am focusing on is stress, and the corresponding behavioral factor is diet. Hence, this paper aims to explore the link between stress as a psychosocial factor and dietary habits as the behavioral factor it influences.


Obesity is a significant shortcoming to the overall health promotion and unhealthy dietary and nutrition patterns like the indulgence in foods with high sugar and fat levels significantly contributes to obesity among individuals. Stress is considered to be a primary factor that may result in increased risk of obesity. It is believed that excessive stress affects the eating patterns of individuals and in this regard, it results in the consumption of hyper-palatable foods (Potenza, 2014). Moreover, it is evident that obesity prevalence continues to dominate in the western culture as it results in chronic health conditions. It is thus crucial to understand the psychosocial factors that influence eating behaviors. Besides, the relationship between the eating behaviors of individuals and stress have been explored and changes in eating behaviors has been identified as a stress coping mechanism that many individuals resort to (Scott, 2012). The relationship between anxiety and eating behaviors of persons has been explored, and it is evident that stress influences eating patterns among humans. Psychological stress is highly associated with chronic diseases, and it is evident that stress influences health by affecting diet and physical activity patterns of individuals. Hence, there exists a relationship between stress and diets owing to the stress-related food intake, and this stress-related nutritional behavior results in health risks since individuals become more susceptible to chronic health problems (Torres, 2007). Additionally, it is worth noting that stress has been associated with unhealthy eating behavior as stressed individuals tend to indulge in food with high fat and sugar levels. Hence, stress has an influence on obesity as a result of poor eating habits and inappropriate diets since in the face of stress, and individuals turn to unhealthy eating behaviors as a stress coping mechanism (Richardson et al., 2015). Hence, pressure and changing dietary behavior are interrelated, and this results in a negative influence on health as such factors result in obesity and other nutrition-related illnesses.

Analysis of Hypotheses

In studying the relationship that exists between stress and diet patterns, various studies have been carried out, and different researchers have developed different hypotheses concerning their studies. In their research, Richardson et al. sought to prove the hypothesis that high levels of perceived stress related indirectly to severe obesity through diet quality and eating patterns and directly through risk factors not associated with diet among the low-income women (Richardson et al., 2015). At the same time, the study conducted by Kevin Luis and Katherine sought to prove the fact that there exists a relationship between stress and nutrition among the Puerto Rican adults (Laugero, 2011). Besides, in the study Relationship between Stress, Eating Behavior and Obesity, the researchers sought to prove the hypothesis that stress influences the eating behaviors of humans (Torres, 2007). Additionally, another current assumption relating to this topic is the existence of a relationship between eating patterns and stress, and the provision of healthy lifestyles by employers at workplaces is vital (Scott., 2012). Hence, different researchers have used various hypotheses in developing their studies relating to the topic on the relationship between stress and diet patterns.

Research Methods and Findings

It is evident from the analyzed literature that different research methods have been applying. It is worth noting that the studies selected for this paper were conducted across diverse populations from different geographical areas, from various age groups, different ethnicities, and genders as well as distinct income levels. This is an indication that this analysis provides a highly representative conclusion regarding the topic of the study.

Overall Findings

It is worth that different studies analyzed provide various suggestions concerning the means of mitigating the problem. However, from the overall analysis of the different studies, it is evident that there is the need to understand that psychological stress is a barrier to the adoption and maintenance of healthy eating habits. Additionally, sensitization of individuals on the ideal diet patterns, the susceptibility of individuals to obesity through poor eating habits and the adverse effects of obesity is crucial in motivating individuals to work towards healthy eating habits.  Besides, it is essential for individuals to identify ideal stress management strategies that do not hinder health promotion.

Therefore, the overall findings indicate that there exists a relationship between stress and dietary patterns. Stress is a source of stress-related nutritional changes as most persons end up viewing these changes as a stress coping strategy. Hence, stress does not only affect the mental health of individuals but it alters the eating patterns to a great extent, and thus stress and unhealthy eating patterns are a hindrance to health promotion. Hence, increased stress results in overeating which consequently leads to weight gain and obesity. Obesity is a global health problem that continues to increase at an alarming rate. Hence, uncontrolled stress-related changes in eating habits increase the susceptibility of individuals to obesity which is a risk factor that results in life-threatening ailments like high blood pressure, heart diseases, and other lifestyle diseases. Hence, in addition to identifying means of handling stress, it is crucial to prevent stress-related eating in dealing with the obesity epidemic efficiently.

Gaps in Knowledge

It is evident that there is the need for further research on the different ways of stress management that will be essential in health promotion. At the same time, it is crucial to fill the knowledge gap that exists concerning the scientific interconnection between stress and eating behaviors. Most studies indicate the existing relationship without getting into the scientific details. 


It is evident that stress as a psychosocial factor has a close relationship with diet changes which is a behavioral factor. Different studies have been carried out with the intention of proving the different hypothesis about this topic. The relationship between stress and diet is one that exists across diverse populations with various economic, social and geographic variations. It is thus crucial to address the problem of individuals resulting in emotional eating as a stress management strategy as it has adverse effects on health promotion. Poor eating behaviors result in an increase in obesity which is a health risk factor that undermines population health. Hence, there is the need for additional research to understand the science behind the relationship between stress and diet patterns as well as study the possible healthy stress management strategies.

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A.M., S. C. (2012). Stress and Eating Behaviour: Implications for Obesity. Obesity Facts, 277-287.

Andrea S. Richardson, J. E. (2015). Perceived stress, unhealthy eating behaviors, and severe obesity in low-income women. Nutrition Journal, Vol 10.

Kevin D. Laugero, L. M. (2011). Relationship between perceived stress and dietary and activity patterns in older adults participating in the Boston Puerto Rican Health Study. Appetite, 194-204.

Potenza, Y. H. (2014). Stress and Eating Behaviors. Minerva endocrinologica, 255-267.

Susan J. Torres, C. A. (2007). Relationship between stress, eating behavior, and obesity. Journal of Nutrition, 887-894.

Krystal Morrison

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