Executive function, perceived stress and eating behaviours among Chinese young adults

Meijun Chen, Wendy Wing Tak Lam, Jiehu Yuan, Meihong Dong, Lin Yang, Derwin King Chung Chan, Qiuyan Liao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

Abstract

Young adults in a transitional period may experience more stress and, hence, suffer from an increased risk of unhealthy eating. Executive function (EF) involves not only inhibitory control and mental flexibility (the ‘cool’ facet) to facilitate resistance to immediate temptations, but also affective decision making (the ‘hot’ facet) that helps to regulate emotional eating. The effects of different facets of EF and their interactions with perceived stress on eating behaviours remained underexplored. In this study, 594 young adults in their graduation year of post-secondary education were included. We used latent profile analysis to identify major patterns of eating behaviours and analysed their associations with perceived stress, and both the ‘cool’ and ‘hot’ facets of EF using multinominal logistic regression models. Latent profile analysis identified three clusters of eating patterns: non-approaching moderate eaters (N = 312, 52.5%), approaching eaters (N = 229, 38.6%), and approaching-and-avoidant eaters (N = 53, 8.9%). Logistic regression models found that the approaching-and-avoidant eating pattern was associated with higher perceived stress (OR = 3.16, p value = 0.007) and poorer affective decision-making (OR = 0.97, p value = 0.006). Stratified analysis further revealed that higher perceived stress was significantly associated with approaching-and-avoidant eating only among individuals with poorer affective decision-making. These findings suggest that individuals with poorer emotional regulation may face greater difficulties in regulating eating behaviours when experiencing higher stress. Interventions for people with a mixed pattern of approaching-and-avoidance eating should focus on providing support to regulate emotion-related eating.

Original languageEnglish
JournalStress and Health
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • affective decision-making
  • eating behaviour
  • executive function
  • perceived stress
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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