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Social and psychological factors affecting eating habits among university students in a Malaysian medical school: a cross-sectional study

Kurubaran Ganasegeran1, Sami AR Al-Dubai1*, Ahmad M Qureshi2, Al-abed AA Al-abed3, Rizal AM3 and Syed M Aljunid34

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Medicine, International Medical School, Management and Science University (MSU), Off Persiaran Olahraga, Section 13, 40100, Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia

2 Community Medicine and Public Health, Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences, No. 3410, Jalan Teknokrat 3, Cyber 4, 63000, Cyberjaya, Selangor, Malaysia

3 Community Health Department, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Jalan Yaacob Latiff, 56000, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

4 United Nations University- International Institute for Global Health, Jalan Yaacob Latiff, 56000, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:48  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-48

Published: 18 July 2012



Eating habits have been a major concern among university students as a determinant of health status. The aim of this study was to assess the pattern of eating habits and its associated social and psychological factors among medical students.


A cross sectional study was conducted among 132 medical students of pre-clinical phase at a Malaysian university. A self-administered questionnaire was used which included questions on socio-demography, anthropometry, eating habits and psychosocial factors.


Mean (±SD) age of the respondents was 22.7 (±2.4) years and (the age) ranged from 18 to 30 years. More than half had regular meals and breakfast (57.6% &, 56.1% respectively). Majority (73.5%) consumed fruits less than three times per week, 51.5% had fried food twice or more a week and 59.8% drank water less than 2 liters daily. Eating habits score was significantly low among younger students (18–22 years), smokers, alcohol drinkers and those who did not exercise. (p<0.05). Four psychological factors out of six, were significantly associated with eating habits (p<0.05). In multivariate analysis, age and ‘eating because of feeling happy’ were significantly associated with eating habits score (p<0.05).


Most of the students in this study had healthy eating habits. Social and psychological factors were important determinants of eating habits among medical students.

Eating habits; Lifestyle; Malaysia medical students; Social and psychological