Social Support, Body Image Perception and Depressive Symptoms, Among University Students in Nigeria, by Gender and Ethnicity

Ezenna Michael Agwu, Stephen Draper, Mark De Ste Croix

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article


Background: The health determinant model indicates that certain socio-cultural, socio-demographic, environmental, and lifestyle factors influence health status and wellbeing of any population group in any given nation, [1]. Previous studies have suggested the need for regional and interregional comparison of health inequalities due to the interaction of these factors. AIMs: This study investigated social support, body image perception and depressive symptoms by sex and ethnicity among university students in Nigeria. Method: The study was a cross sectional survey. Full time university students were recruited from six universities within the major three ethnic groups in Nigeria.2500 anonymous questionnaire was sent to students during a class lecture, 1549 responses were valid, while 563 responses were rejected for missing data especially sex and ethnicity and 388 students did not return their questionnaire. The variables examined were, demographic, income status, social support, body image perception and depressive symptoms. Descriptive tests, chi-square tests and analysis of variance (ANOVA) tests were conducted. Results: The result showed that depression indicated significant differences by gender and ethnicity, with students from the Hausa ethnic group reporting depression more than other ethnic groups, and female students more than males. Body image indicated a sex*ethnicity interaction effect for theideal female body image. Further analysis of the data suggested that Igbo males and Yoruba females’ preferred bigger female body size. Irrespective of ethnicity, the study indicated that more female students preferred bigger female body sizes than males. With regard to social support and monthly income, the result indicated sex*ethnicity interaction effects, where female students from the Hausa ethnic group reported better social support and monthly income. Conclusion: The findings indicated that the mental health of female students in the sample were poorer than those of male students and female students from the Hausa ethnic group demonstrating the worst possible health outcome, despite a morefavorable social support and income status. This study made a major contribution to the understanding that people who live among regions with conflict and violence may report poor psychological health compared to those that live in a conflict free zones.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-274
Number of pages11
JournalScience Journal of Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2017



  • Depression
  • Body image perception
  • social support
  • student's health
  • health inequality
  • cultural health inequality

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