Race, Stress, Eating Behavior, and Body Weight

Debra J. Umberson, University of Texas at Austin
Hui Liu, Michigan State University
Isaac Sasson, University of Texas at Austin
Letisha Brown, University of Texas at Austin

We work from a stress and life course perspective to elaborate on race differences in the impact of stress on change in body weight. Compared to whites, African Americans are exposed to higher levels of stress throughout life. African Americans also weigh more, on average, than do whites. Stress may foster weight gain if individuals respond to stress with behaviors that promote weight gain. We use blended methods to investigate linkages between race, stress, eating behavior, and body weight. Preliminary quantitative results (U.S. sample, N=3,497) suggest that the effects of adult stress burden on BMI depend on race, with African Americans more likely to gain weight in response to escalating stress. A qualitative analysis (in-depth interviews, N=60) will explore variation by both race and gender in the link between stress and eating habits/weight change. Final blended quantitative and qualitative analyses will fully explore race and gender variation in these linkages.

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Presented in Session 67: Health Behaviors, Health, and Mortality I