Emotional Eating, Health Behaviours, and Obesity in Children: A 12-Country Cross-Sectional Study

Elli Jalo, Hanna Konttinen, Henna Vepsäläinen, Jean-Philippe Chaput, Gang Hu, Carol Maher, José Maia, Olga L. Sarmiento, Martyn Standage, Catrine Tudor-Locke, Peter T. Katzmarzyk, Mikael Fogelholm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (SciVal)
41 Downloads (Pure)


Eating in response to negative emotions (emotional eating, EE) may predispose an individual to obesity. Yet, it is not well known how EE in children is associated with body mass index (BMI) and health behaviours (i.e., diet, physical activity, sleep, and TV-viewing). In the present study, we examined these associations in a cross-sectional sample of 5426 (54% girls) 9–11-year-old children from 12 countries and five continents. EE, food consumption, and TV-viewing were measured using self-administered questionnaires, and physical activity and nocturnal sleep duration were measured with accelerometers. BMI was calculated using measured weights and heights. EE factor scores were computed using confirmatory factor analysis, and dietary patterns were identified using principal components analysis. The associations of EE with health behaviours and BMI z-scores were analyzed using multilevel models including age, gender, and household income as covariates. EE was positively and consistently (across 12 study sites) associated with an unhealthy dietary pattern (β = 0.29, SE = 0.02, p < 0.0001), suggesting that the association is not restricted to Western countries. Positive associations between EE and physical activity and TV viewing were not consistent across sites. Results tended to be similar in boys and girls. EE was unrelated to BMI in this sample, but prospective studies are needed to determine whether higher EE in children predicts the development of undesirable dietary patterns and obesity over time.

Original languageEnglish
Article number351
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2019


  • eating behaviour; psychological eating style; negative emotions; Emotion-Induced Eating Scale; health behaviour; BMI
  • Psychological eating style
  • Eating behaviour
  • Emotion-induced eating scale
  • Negative emotions
  • Health behaviour
  • BMI
  • Body Mass Index
  • Feeding Behavior/psychology
  • Child Behavior/psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Pediatric Obesity/etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Health Behavior
  • Diet/psychology
  • Emotions
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Eating/psychology
  • Child
  • Sedentary Behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Emotional Eating, Health Behaviours, and Obesity in Children: A 12-Country Cross-Sectional Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this