Depression is being increasingly acknowledged as a global public health concern, and following this trend, attention towards eating disorders (EDs) has surged within China’s national consciousness. EDs symptoms frequently coexist with various mental health conditions, including depression. However, research focusing on EDs symptoms and depressive symptoms among Tibetan students in China remains scant. This study employs network analysis to estimate the relational network between EDs and depressive symptoms.
Tibetan (n = 2,582) and Han (n = 1,743) students from two universities in the Xizang Autonomous Region, China, completed the Eating Attitude Test-26 (EAT-26) and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). We estimated the network structure of EDs symptoms and depressive symptoms, identified central and bridge symptoms, and examined whether network characteristics differed by gender and ethnic.
The core symptoms identified within this study were Calorie_awareness, Desire_to_thin and Fatigue. Conversely, bridge symptoms included Appetite, Suicide, Anhedonia, Guilty, Body_fat_awareness, and Food_preoccupation. The study also revealed no significant gender differences within the network model. However, disparities among ethnic groups were observed within the network structure.
Our study examined the correlation between EDs symptoms and depressive symptoms in Tibetan college students. Focusing on the individual’s quest for the perfect body shape and some Tibetan students’ appetite problems – potentially stemming from transitioning to a new university environment, adapting to the school canteen’s diet, or being away from their hometown – could aid in the prevention and management of EDs and depression symptoms. It could reduce the incidence of complications by helping students maintain good physical and mental health. Concurrently, our research provides insights into the relatively higher levels of depression triggered by the unique plateau environment.