Determinants of Weight-Related Behaviors in Male Saudi University Students: A Qualitative Approach Using Focus Group Discussions

A. Balhareth*, M. Jafer, E. van der Borgh-Sleddens, S. Kremers, R. Meertens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Obesity is a serious public health concern in the Gulf States. Students are exposed to many unhealthy weight-related behaviors due to college life. However, research that gives insight into regional and culture-specific aspects and determinants of weight-related behaviors in students is lacking. The purpose of this study was to explore the potential determinants of weight change, eating behaviors, physical activity, sedentary behaviors, and sleep behaviors in Saudi university students. Five semi-structured focus group discussions guided by Social Cognitive Theory were conducted, consisting of 33 male university students 20 to 22 years old. The data were transcribed, coded, and organized according to themes. The students reported weight gain due to personal, social, and environmental factors related to university lifestyle, such as unhealthy eating behaviors, low physical activity, high sedentary behaviors, and inadequate sleep. Both eating behaviors and physical activity shared similar personal aspects found in other studies, such as knowledge, stress, lack of time, and lack of motivation. However, there were some unique social and environmental factors in the region, such as the social norms, cultural aspects, weather conditions, passive transport dependency, and khat consumption, compared with studies worldwide. Such differences are key factors to developing effective interventions in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3697
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021


  • adults
  • determinants
  • weight-related behaviors
  • Middle East


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