Linking Stress, Emotional Eating & Soldiers

Research Paper Title

Body weight status, perceived stress, and emotional eating among US Army Soldiers: A mediator model.


In civilians, overweight and obesity are associated with emotional eating behaviours such as eating in response to stress, but this association has not been examined in Soldiers, a population with unique stressors.

This cross-sectional study examined the relationship between perceived stress (PS), emotional eating (EE), and outcomes of body mass index (BMI), and failing Army body composition (BC) standards among Soldiers.


Soldiers (N = 1460, 83% male, 23.5 ± 5.2 years old) completed validated surveys on PS, EE, and adherence with military BC standards.

Conditional process models and mediation models tested gender as a moderator and EE as a mediator of associations between PS and BMI and PS and BC failure, respectively.


Higher PS was associated with more frequent self-reported EE behaviours (p < 0.001), higher BMI (p < 0.001), and BC failure (p < 0.001). BMI significantly increased with frequency of reported EE behaviours (p < 0.001).

Gender was not a statistically significant moderator in the relationship between PS, EE, and, BMI (p = 0.83) or BC failure (p = 0.57). PS appears to affect BMI indirectly through EE behaviours (c’ = 0.03, 95% CI: 0.02, 0.04). PS may affect BC failure directly (c’ = 1.04, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.08) and indirectly (ab = 1.02, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.03) through EE as a mediator.


EE behaviours may mediate the positive association between PS, BMI, and BC failure.

Prospective investigation is warranted to better understand the role of EE in health-related outcomes among Soldiers and populations in high stress professions.


Jayne, J.M., Ayala, R., Karl, J.P., Deschamps, B.A., McGraw, S.M., O’Connor, K., DiChiara, A.J. & Cole, R.E. (2020) Body weight status, perceived stress, and emotional eating among US Army Soldiers: A mediator model. Eating Behaviors. 36:101367. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2020.101367. Epub 2020 Jan 16.


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