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Screen time-based sedentary behaviour, eating regulation and weight status of university students during the COVID-19 lockdown

Seok Tyug Tan (Department of Healthcare Professional, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Management and Science University, Shah Alam, Malaysia)
Seok Shin Tan (Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, School of Health Sciences, International Medical University, Bukit Jalil, Malaysia)
Chin Xuan Tan (Department of Allied Health Sciences, Faculty of Science, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kampar, Malaysia)

Nutrition & Food Science

ISSN: 0034-6659

Article publication date: 18 August 2021




This study aims to investigate the relationships among screen time-based sedentary behaviour, eating self-regulatory skills and weight status among private university students during the Movement Control Order (MCO).


A total of 186 private university students was enrolled in this cross-sectional study using a combination of snowball and purposive sampling approaches. Anthropometric measurements, including body height, body weight before and during the MCO enforcement were self-reported by the respondents. Screen-time based sedentary behaviour sedentary behaviour was evaluated using HELENA sedentary behaviour questionnaire, whereas the Self-Regulation of Eating Behaviour Questionnaire (SREBQ) was used to determine the eating self-regulatory skills in MCO.


Respondents spent most of the time on the internet for non-study purposes (148 ± 77.7 min). It is also noted that 64.5% of the respondents had medium eating self-regulatory skill during the MCO, with an average score of 3.0 ± 0.5. Findings from path analysis confirmed that poor eating self-regulation significantly contributed to the weight gain during home confinement (ß = −0.24, p = 0.01). In conclusion, eating self-regulation, but not total screen time, emerged as the determinant for weight gain during the COVID-19 lockdown.


According to the authors’ knowledge, this study was among the few that investigated sedentary behaviour, eating self-regulatory skills and weight status of university students during the COVID-19 pandemic.



Author contributions: All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by Seok Tyug Tan, Seok Shin Tan and Chin Xuan Tan. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Tan Seok Tyug, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding: This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Ethical statement: This research has been approved by the Research Ethics Committee of Management and Science University, Malaysia. All authors attest to this manuscript as presented.

Conflict of interest: All authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Transparency declaration: The lead author affirms that this manuscript is an honest, accurate and transparent account of the study being reported. The reporting of this work is compliant with PRISMA guidelines. The lead author affirms that no important aspects of the study have been omitted and that any discrepancies from the study as planned (reference number: MSU-RMC-02/FR01/06/L1/041) have been explained.


Tan, S.T., Tan, S.S. and Tan, C.X. (2021), "Screen time-based sedentary behaviour, eating regulation and weight status of university students during the COVID-19 lockdown", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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