Eating to combat stress can be bad for the health, according to a new study from Finland. Researchers found that for most people who ate when stressed picked greasy, salty or sweet foodstuffs.
Dr. Jaana Laitinen of the Oulu Regional Institute of Occupational Health and a team of researchers looked at 5,150 individuals at four points in their lives - birth and ages one, 14 and 31. At age 31, the participants' body mass index, eating habits and methods of coping with stress were studied.
Those who said they often or sometimes tried to make themselves feel better by eating and drinking were designated as stress-driven eaters, according to a report in the current issue of Preventive Medicine.
Dr. Laitinen's team found that stress-driven eaters were more likely than others to frequently eat pizza, hamburgers, sausages and chocolate and to drink more alcohol.
Men were more likely to eat in the face of stress if they were single, divorced or frequently unemployed, the report said, although, surprisingly, stress-related eating was also high among men with degrees. Higher education is usually linked to lower rates of obesity.
Among women, those who felt a lack of emotional support in their lives had a greater tendency to eat to cope with stress, the report said.