Risk of disordered eating attitudes and its relation to mental health among university students in ASEAN
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Since there is a lack of information on eating disorders attitudes in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the aim of this study was to explore the prevalence of eating disorder attitude and its relation to mental distress among university student populations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
A cross-sectional questionnaire survey and anthropometric measurement were conducted with undergraduate university students that were randomly recruited. The Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) was utilized to determine the prevalence of disordered eating attitudes. The sample included 3148 university students, with a mean age of 20.5 years, SD = 1.6.
Using the EAT-26, 11.5% of the students across all countries were classified as being at risk for an eating disorder, ranging from below 10% in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam to 13.8% in Malaysia and 20.6% in Myanmar. In multivariable logistic regression analysis, sociodemographic factors (wealthier subjective economic status, and living in a lower middle income country), underweight and overweight body weight perception, psychological factors (depression symptoms and pathological internet use), and being obese were associated with eating disorder risk.
Relatively high rates of eating disorder risk were found. This result calls for increased awareness, understanding of eating disorders and related risk factors and interventions in university students in ASEAN.
Level of evidence
Level V, descriptive cross-sectional survey.
KeywordsEating disorder risk EAT-26 Body weight perception Mental health University students ASEAN
The following colleagues participated in this ASEAN student health survey and contributed to data collection (locations of universities in parentheses): Indonesia: Erna Rochmawati (Yogyakarta), Malaysia: Wah Yun Low (Kuala Lumpur); Myanmar: Hla Hla Win (Yangon); Thailand: Niruwan Turnbull (Maha Sarakham); Vietnam: Thang Nguyen Huu (Hanoi).
Partial funding for this study was provided by the South African Department of Higher Education.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors have no conflict of interests to disclose.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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