Given the numerous evidence demonstrating the influence of emotions in engaging risky behaviors, it seems inevitable to consider new approaches that promote healthy lifestyles. This study examines the relationship between emotional intelligence (EI) and unhealthy lifestyles among undergraduate university students in Southern Italy, since a correlation between EI and harmful health behaviors has been postulated. The present cross-sectional study was conducted among over 18-year-old university students using an online, anonymous, self-administered questionnaire. Socio-demographic characteristics, tobacco use, nicotine dependence, alcohol consumption, and skipping breakfast were investigated. Nearly a third of the sample were current smokers (30.9%). Problematic drinking was shown in 9.9% of the students. Almost one-fourth (23.1%) reported breakfast skipping >= 3 days a week. Emotional clarity and total EI scores were significantly lower in current smokers with moderate/high nicotine dependence. Problematic drinking revealed lower emotional clarity and total EI scores. Breakfast skippers showed lower emotional attention and total EI scores. The interconnectedness of unhealthy behaviors and the potential for one behavior to lead to or predict another were also shown. The study findings provide useful insights to develop evidence-based strategies to empower the young adults to choose a health-promoting lifestyle. The figures suggest that emotional learning interventions could support this goal.
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