Jordan Taylor1, Erica Taylor, FACSM2, Angela Shorter3, Kiayona Grimes4. 1The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN. 2Colombus State, Columbus, GA. 3Delaware State, Dover, DE. 4Values into Action, Clementon, NJ.

BACKGROUND: First year college students often experience emotional turmoil due to the transition (Wyatt, et al., 2017), and mental health challenges have amplified during the COVID pandemic. Fruehwirth, et al., (2021) reported an increase in depression prevalence for first year college students from 21.5% before to 31.7% four months into the pandemic. Social isolation and distanced learning increased the prevalence of depression and anxiety. Risk factors for stress, anxiety, and depression include history of mental illness, heavy workload, poor grades, and lifestyle factors. Additionally, Black Americans and women are at increased risk for depression. We previously reported the relationships that physical activity participation and weight status have with stress and depression. Nutrition habits, stress, depression, weight, and physical activity(PA) can mutually affect each other. Therefore, the purpose of this presentation is to discuss the relationship of nutrition habits with stress, depression, and physical activity. Methods: Participants (N=110) were students at an HBCU who completed a Polar TriFit assessment at the university’s wellness center. PA, nutrition habits, stress, and depression symptoms were self-reported. Results: Only 2% of participants had nutrition habits classified as excellent, and those participants also scored low for stress and depression. The difference in the distribution of nutrition habits for stress and depression were significant (p<.05). More low stress participants reported good or excellent nutrition habits compared to those who reported mild or moderate stress levels (34.7% vs. 11.3%). More than half (51.5%) of those who scored low for depression symptoms reported good or excellent nutrition habits compared to 10% of those who scored mild or moderate depression symptoms. More physically active participants reported excellent or good nutrition habits compared to physically inactive participants (31.7% vs. 12.8%; p=.001). Conclusions: There is an association between good nutrition habits and lower stress and depression symptoms. Universities should offer nutrition education to all students and affordable healthy food options on and around campus. The more we continue to learn about the positive effects of nutrition on stress and depression, the more programs should be implemented to provide students with good nutrition and ultimately contribute to healthy lifestyle changes.

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