Perceived stress and its relationship with the body composition of undergraduate students of a medical college in Nigeria.

  • Ayoola Ibifubara Aiyegbusi College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
  • Sunday Rufus Akinbo College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
  • Oluwadamilola Bolarinwa Adebisi College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
Keywords: Body composition, Perceived stress, Medical students


Background: Stress among medical undergraduates has been reported to be on the increase with subsequent tendency towards obesity. However, the association between perceived stress and body composition has yet to be determined.

Objective: This cross-sectional study was undertaken to determine the relationship between perceived stress and body composition among undergraduates of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Nigeria.

Methods: Three hundred and twenty-nine apparently healthy undergraduates (165 males and 164 females) with ages between 17 to 35 years participated in the study. Physical characteristics such as weight, height, body mass index (BMI), and body composition indices were measured using standard procedures. Questionnaires were administered to assess the levels of perceived stress of the participants. The data were analyzed using mean, standard deviation and Spearman’s Correlation Coefficient analysis.

Results: The mean stress level was low (27.33 ± 10.60). There were significant relationships between the body composition indices and perceived stress with visceral fat having the strongest relationship (p = 0.004) while BMI had the least correlation (p = 0.037). There were also significant relationships between age, gender and body composition indices. The percentage muscle mass, visceral fat, and body fat had significant relationships with the gender of the participants.

Conclusion: Visceral fat, BMI, and percentage muscle mass increased with an increase in perceived stress level, and females had a lower level of perceived stress than males.

Author Biographies

Ayoola Ibifubara Aiyegbusi, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
Senior Lecturer, Department of Physiotherapy
Sunday Rufus Akinbo, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
Professor, Department of Physiotherapy
Oluwadamilola Bolarinwa Adebisi, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
Department of Physiotherapy


Adam TC, Epel ES (2007).Stress, eating and the reward system. Physiology and Behaviour 91:449–458.

Ardern CI, Katzmarzyk PT, Janssen I, Ross R (2003). Discrimination of health risk by combined body mass index and waist circumference. Obesity Review 11:135–42.

Bjorntorp P (1993). Visceral obesity: A “Civilization Syndrome”. Obesity Research 1: 206-222.

Boreham C, Riddoch C (2001). The physical activity, fitness and health of children. Journal of Sports Sciences 19: 915-929.

Dallman MF, Pecoraro N, Akana SF, La Fleur SE, Gomez F, Houshyar H (2003). Chronic stress and obesity.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100: 11696–11701.

Dallman MF, la Fleur SE, Pecoraro NC (2004). Mini review: glucocorticoids–food intake, abdominal obesity, and wealthy nations in 2004. Endocrinology 145: 2633–2638.

Estroff MH (2003). Stress and Eating. Psychology Today, Available @ on 18/06/2013.

Gallagher D, Heymsfield SB, Heo M, Jebb SA, Murgatroyd PR, Sakamoto Y (2000). Healthy percentage body fat ranges: an approach for developing guidelines based on body mass index. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 72:694-701.

Gene H. Brody, Man-Kit Lei, Edith Chen, and Gregory E. Miller (2014). Neighborhood Poverty and Allostatic Load in African American Youth. Pediatrics Vol. 134 No. 5 November 1

Hamza M. Abdulghani, Abdulaziz A. AlKanhal, Ebrahim S. Mahmoud, Gominda G. Ponnamperuma, and Eiad A. Alfaris (2011). Stress and Its Effects on Medical Students: A Cross-sectional Study at a College of Medicine in Saudi Arabia. J Health Popul Nutr. Oct; 29(5): 516–522.

Haugland S, Wold B, Torsheim T (2003). Relieving the pressure? The role of physical activity in the relationship between school-related stress and adolescent health complaints. Res Q Exerc Sport; 74:127-35.

Hirani V, Zaninotto P, Primatesta P (2007). Generalised and abdominal obesity and risk of diabetes, hypertension and hypertension-diabetes co-morbidity in England. Public Health and Nutrition 26:1–7.

Huybrechts I, De Vriendt, Breidenassel C, Rogiers J, Vanaelst B, Cuenca-García M et al (2014) , Mechanisms of stress, energy homeostasis and insulin resistance in European adolescents – the HELENA study. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. Volume 24, Issue 10, Pages 1082–1089

Juster R.P, McEwen B.S, Lupien S.J (2010). Allostatic load biomarkers of chronic stress and impact on health and cognition. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev., 35 (1)pp. 2–16

Kern M.L. Friedman H.S. (2011). Personality and pathways of influence on physical health. Soc. Pers. Psychol. Compass, 5, pp. 76–87

Kershaw EE, Flier JS (2004).Adipose tissue as an endocrine organ. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 89 (6):2548-2556.

Kissebah AH, Krakower G (1994). Regional adiposity and morbidity. Physiol Rev.74:761–811

Kraag G, Zeegers MP, Kok G (2006). School programs targeting stress management in children and adolescents: a meta-analysis. J School Psychol. 44:449-72.

Kumarα.T. Anil, Suresh.D.R (2011). Clinical Significance of Perceived Occupational Stress Influencing Body Mass and Osteopenia: A Pilot Study. Global Journal of Medical research Volume 11 Issue 4 Version 1.0 December

Kuo Lydia E, Czarnecka Magdalena, Joanna B. Kitlinska, Jason U. Tilan, Richard Kvetňanský, and Zofia Zukowska (2008).. Ann N Y Acad Sci. Dec; 1148: 232–237.

Maria AF, Brant EF (1995). Factors Associated With Low Body Mass Index and Weight Loss in Nursing Home Residents. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences 50(3): 162-168.

McCaffery JM, Marsland AL, Strohacker K, Muldoon MF, Manuck SB (2012). Factor structure underlying components of allostatic load. PLoS ONE.7(10):e47246

McEwen BS (1998). Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators. N Engl J Med. 338(3):171–9

McEwen B.S, Gianaros P.J (2010). Central role of the brain in stress and adaptation: links to socioeconomic status, health, and disease. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci., 1186, pp. 190–222

McEwen B. S., Wingfield J. C. (2010). What is in a name. Integrating homeostasis, allostasis and stress. Horm. Behav. 57, 105–111 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2009.09.011

Menke A, Muntner P, Wildman RP, Reynolds K, He J (2007). Measures of adiposity and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Obesity (Silver Spring) 15:785–95.

Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions, Mauritius, 2012. Stress Questionnaire for Students

Morrow ARN (2011). Stress definition. Available @ on 14/08/2012.

Murphy MC, Archer J (1996). Stressors on the college campus: A comparison of 1985-1993. Journal of College Student Development 37(1): 20-28.

National Institutes of Health (2001). Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). Bethesda, NIH Publication.

Saipanish R. Stress among medical students in a Thai medical school (2003). Med Teach. 25:502–6.

Sax L.J (1997). Health trends among college freshmen. Journal of American College Health 45(6): 252-262.

Tamres Lisa K, Janicki Denise, Vicki S. Helgeson (2002). Sex Differences in Coping Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Review and an Examination of Relative Coping. Pers Soc Psychol Rev February; vol. 6 no. 1 2-30

Taylor Shelley E (2006). Tend and Befriend, Biobehavioral Bases of Affiliation Under Stress. Current Directions in Psychological Science December; vol. 15 no. 6 273-277

Theall Katherine P, Drury Stacy S. and Shirtcliff Elizabeth A (2012). Cumulative Neighborhood Risk of Psychosocial Stress and Allostatic Load in Adolescents. Am. J. Epidemiol. 176 (suppl 7): S164-S174.

Tineke De Vriendt , Els Clays , Lea Maes , Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij , Germàn Vicente-Rodriguez , Luis A. Moreno (2011). European adolescents’ level of perceived stress and its relationship with body adiposity—The HELENA Study. European Journal of Public Health, Volume 22, Issue 4; Pp. 519 – 524

Torres SJ, Nowson CA (2007).Relationship between stress, eating behaviour and obesity. Nutrition 23(11–12):887–894.

Tyseen R, Vaglum P, Gronvold NT, Ekeberg O (2001). Factors in medical school that predict postgraduate mental health problems in need of treatment. A nationwide and longitudinal study. Med Educ. 35:110–20.

Wilson PW, D’Agostino RB, Sullivan L, Parise H, Kannel WB (2002). Overweight and obesity as determinants of cardiovascular risk: the Framingham experience. Archives of Medicine162:1867–72.

Yamamoto K, Irie M, Sakamoto Y, Ohmori S, Yoshinari M (2007). The relationship between IMPS-measured stress score and biomedical parameters regarding health status among public school workers. Journal of Physiology and Anthropology 26 (2):149–58.

How to Cite
Aiyegbusi, A. I., Akinbo, S. R., & Adebisi, O. B. (2016). Perceived stress and its relationship with the body composition of undergraduate students of a medical college in Nigeria. Nigerian Journal of Medical Rehabilitation, 18(2).
Research Articles