Weight Gain in American Black Girls Linked to Chronic Stress

Jerry Kennard Health Pro
  • A relationship exists between chronic perceived stress and Body Mass Index (BMI) in both black and white girls, but the relationship is stronger in black girls, so says research published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.


    Dr. Janet Tomiyama of the University of California, Los Angeles, said the prevalence of obesity in black populations is 50 percent higher than in whites, even in childhood and particularly in female adolescents. Her concern is that the experience of chronic stress may have a greater negative effect on black girls.


    The research team examined data from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s (NHBLI) Growth and Health Study on the prevalence of obesity in 2,379 black and white girls from age 10 and followed up for 10 years. They also examined perceived psychological stress in the same period. They found that even though black girls reported less stress than white girls the effect of chronic stress on weight was greater. A one unit increase in stress equated to 0.8 BMI increase every two years for black girls compared with a 0.55 BMI increase in white girls.

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    According to the report psychological stress may lead to weight gain through increased food consumption and lack of exercise as well as prolonged exposure to stress hormones like cortisol.


    Apart from raising awareness that stress may be playing a significant role in the obesity epidemic there are additional concerns over the physical health implications of high blood pressure. In a separate report from the American Heart Association, concerns are expressed over blood pressure levels in black children. Researchers at an obesity clinic found that while age and body weight were similar in black and white children, the black children’s blood pressure was 8 percent higher. More research is needed to understand this race-specific difference in order to better target prevention strategies.



    Springer Science+Business Media (2012, September 19). Weight gain worry for stressed black girls: Stress and weight more strongly linked in black girls than white counterparts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/09/120919125734.htm


    American Heart Association (2012, September 21). Effect of body mass index on blood pressure varies by race among children. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/09/120921140258.htm

Published On: October 02, 2012