The Effect of Perceived Discrimination and Weekly Stress on Physical Health Outcomes in African American and Hispanic/Latina Women: Health Is Power Study



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Background: Reducing health disparities has become a national objective, and psychological factors, such as racial discrimination and weekly stressors, are thought to contribute to them. The purposes of this study are (1) to determine the association between weekly stressors and racial discrimination to physical health outcomes, including blood pressure, body fat percentage, and body mass index (BMI=kg/m2) among community dwelling African American and Hispanic/Latina women and (2) to determine whether coping moderates the association between discrimination and health. Method: Data were collected from the Health Is Power project, a longitudinal study funded by the National Institute of Health (PI: Lee, 1R01CA109403) to increase physical activity and improve dietary habits in African American and Hispanic/Latina women. Women (N=410) completed measures of racial discrimination, weekly stress, and a physical health assessment. Racial discrimination was measured using the Experience of Discrimination questionnaire; weekly stressors, including the number of events and impact of events, were measured using the Weekly Stress Inventory. Physical health assessments were conducted by a trained assessor and included measures of BMI, body fat percentage, and blood pressure. Descriptive analyses were performed to describe participant characteristics and test assumptions of normality. Bivariate analyses were performed to determine the associations between independent variables (Experience of Discrimination, Weekly Stress Inventory-Impact) and dependent variables (BMI, body fat percentage, and blood pressure). Multiple regression analyses were used to determine physical health outcomes from the Weekly Stress Inventory and Experiences of Discrimination questionnaire, controlling for age, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity. Results: Our results indicate that the impact of weekly stressors is associated with systolic and diastolic blood pressure in African American and Hispanic/Latina women, but not BMI or body fat percentage. Despite the high levels of perceived experiences of discrimination among African American and Hispanic/Latina women, discrimination was not associated with any physical health outcomes. The majority of study participants were categorized as active copers and coping did not moderate the association between discrimination and health. Discussion: Understanding the association between discrimination and stress on physical health is vital to reducing health inequalities among ethnic minority populations. Future studies should aim to collect objective health data from a multi-ethnic population. Findings from this study may be used to inform future public health guidelines and policies to reduce health disparities and promote health equality.



Perceived discrimination, Health disparities, Weekly stress inventory, Physical health outcomes, Blood pressure, Body fat percentage, Body mass index