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You are here: Home / Retired Persons / Natalie Slopen, Sc.D. / Natalie Slopen Publications / Effect of Change in Cumulative Psychosocial Stressors on Change in Body Mass Index Over Time

Jonathan Z Butler, Eva M Durazo, Rimma Dushkes, Natalie B Slopen, David R Williams, Tiffany M Powell-Wiley, Julie E Buring, and Michelle A Albert (2019)

Effect of Change in Cumulative Psychosocial Stressors on Change in Body Mass Index Over Time

Circulation, 140(1).

Introduction: Increased psychosocial stress and obesity are both associated with elevated risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, the effect of change in cumulative psychosocial stressors (stressors) on change in body mass index (BMI) over time is unknown, particularly among older women, a population in whom weight change characterization is complex.

Methods and Results: We examined change in stressors in relation to change in BMI among 20,750 women without CVD or cancer at baseline (2012-13) participating in the Women’s Health Study (WHS) follow-up cohort. Stressors and BMI were collected at two time points 2012-13 (Baseline: T1; mean age=71.8 ± 5.8 years) and 2014-15 (Follow-up: T2; mean age=73.8 ± 5.8 years). Our measures of stressors were comprised of a composite of 8 domains, including acute (e.g. negative life events) and chronic (e.g., financial) stressors. We defined stressors over 3 years of follow-up into four categories: chronically low, delayed, acutely high, and chronically high; and BMI change was grouped into three categories (BMI: loss >3%, gain >3%, and maintenance ± 3%). Women with chronically high stress and delayed stress were younger, current smokers and reported more anxiety/depressive symptoms compared to other women. Women with chronically high stress were more likely to have diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia than their counterparts. Compared to women who maintained both their BMI and had low stress over time, women with delayed stress or chronically high stress had higher odds of decreased BMI [Delayed: Odds Ratio (OR) 1.16, 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 1.03-1.30; Chronically High: OR=1.12, 95% CI 1.01-1.24] (Table 1).

Conclusion: Chronically high and delayed cumulative stress were associated with higher odds of weight loss in older women over 3 years. Future studies are needed to test associations between stressors and metabolic, hormonal and autonomic factors resulting in adiposity or musculoskeletal changes.

Health in Social Context, Slopen, Health
Body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, Obesity, Women, Psychosocial Aspects, Older population
Originally published: November 11, 2019

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