Psychological distress is an important indicator of the mental health status of a population. In Qatar, young women constitute a high-risk population for poor mental health and obesity due to a variety of sociocultural factors. Yet, there is currently limited information on the epidemiology of psychological distress including its association with body and eating related attitudes, and behaviors in this vulnerable segment of the population.
In this study, we aim examine the 30-day prevalence of psychological distress, identify potential risk and protective factors, and estimate the magnitude of its associations with socio-demographics, body-and eating-related attitudes and behaviors in a large representative sample of female students attending Qatar’s national university.
Distress in the past 30 days was assessed using the 6-item version of the Kessler psychological distress scale (K6). Information about level of impairment in daily functioning due to these symptoms was also collected. In addition, body-shape concerns and eating-related attitudes and behaviour were assessed using the body-shape questionnaire (BSQ-8) and the shortened version of the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26). Information about current weight, desired weight, and weight loss attempts in the past 6 months was also collected. Responses from a sample of 1,422 participants were analyzed.
We have come to the conclusion psychological distress as measured by the K6 appears to be highly prevalent in this population. Those who scored 13 or above, a cut-off point established from validation studies in some Western non-clinical populations were also more likely to report higher levels of impairment in daily functioning, poorer overall physical health, and worse body- and eating-related outcomes.