Document Type : Research paper


1 Iraqi Medical Association, Baghdad, Iraq

2 Clinical Science & Nutrition Department, Faculty of Medicine, University of Chester, Chester, UK



Objectives: Mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, and depression represent a burden on society as they contribute to morbidity and mortality among affected people. The prevention of mental health disorders through promoting a healthy lifestyle and early therapeutic interventions among affected individuals may reduce treatment expense and save lives. Various epidemiological studies have investigated the relationships between dietary patterns, nutrients, and mental health disorders.
We intend to evaluate the effects of specific eating habits i.e. the Mediterranean diet on the mental health of university students in the UK (18- 35 years old), and the influence of multiple variables such as age, gender (male/female), level of study (undergraduate/postgraduate), nationality (British/European versus international) on the prevalence of mental health disorders. The main study hypothesis assumes that there is a significant relationship between the Mediterranean diet and mental health disorders (depression, anxiety and stress) among young university students.
Methods: The study design is a descriptive analytical cross-sectional study. Data from 125 students, recruited from the University of Chester were collected and analysed. The adherence to the Mediterranean diet was determined using the 14-item Mediterranean diet score tool. Depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms among the participants were assessed using a self-report 21-item questionnaire (DASS-21). The relationship between each of the mental health disorder scores obtained by the DASS-21 and the adherence to the Mediterranean diet was investigated. Demographic data was collected from the students, namely: age, gender, educational level and nationality. The scores of mental health disorders (stress, anxiety, and depression) obtained by DASS-21 and its dependence on students’ demographic parameters were also investigated.
Results: There was no significant correlation between the Mediterranean diet score tool and DASS- 21 parameters stress (P = .16, r= .13), anxiety (P= .07, r= .16), and depression (P=.06, r=.17), among young university students in the UK and adherence to the Mediterranean diet eating habits was low. However, moderate wine consumption may be protective against some mental health symptoms. Furthermore, depression levels were not dependent on the participants’ socio-demographic variables and anxiety levels were dependent on the participants’ study level (undergraduate versus postgraduate, P = .008, Z = -2.6), and their home backgrounds (British/EU higher than Internationals, P =.007, Z= -2.7). Moreover, stress levels were dependent on two variables: gender (females higher than males) (P = .035) and nationality (British/ EU higher than international students) (P =.007). On the contrary, age groups i.e. 18-25, 26-30, and 31-35 did not influence depression (P = .96, df = 2), anxiety (P = .305, df = 2), or stress levels (P=.09, df=2).
Conclusion: The University of Chester’s young students were only slightly to moderately adhering to a Mediterranean diet. There was no association between the Mediterranean diet eating patterns and mental health disorders among this group though moderate wine consumption recommended by the Mediterranean diet, may be protective against stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. A fundamental consideration is that levels of these symptoms may be dependent on different socio-demographic variables.


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