Status Variations in Stress Exposure: Implications for the Interpretation of Research on Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Gender

Department of Sociology, Center for Demography and Population Health, Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA.
Journal of Health and Social Behavior (Impact Factor: 2.72). 01/2004; 44(4):488-505. DOI: 10.2307/1519795
Source: PubMed


Life events checklists have been the predominant method for estimating variations in stress exposure. It is unknown, however, whether such inventories are equally meaningful for estimating differences in exposure between men and women, African Americans and whites, and those in lower and higher socioeconomic categories. In this paper, we employ a wider range of measures of stress--recent life events, chronic stressors, lifetime major events, and discrimination stress--to examine the extent to which these dimensions collectively yield conclusions about status variations in stress exposure that are similar to or different from estimates based only on a life events checklist. Our analyses of data collected from 899 young men and women of African American and non-Hispanic white ancestry suggest that status differences in exposure to stress vary considerably by the measure of stress that is employed. Although women are more exposed to recent life events than men, males report more major events and discrimination stress than females. Our results also reveal that life event measures tend to substantially under-estimate differences between African Americans and non-Hispanic whites in exposure to stress. A similar pattern also holds for socioeconomic status. When stress is more comprehensively estimated, level of exposure profoundly affects ethnic differences in depressive symptomatology, accounting for almost half of the difference by socioeconomic status but contributing little to the explanation of the gender difference in distress. The implications of these findings for the debate over the relative mental health significance of exposure and vulnerability to stress are discussed.

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    • "" This suggests a potentially greater role for status-based stressors in research on gender and socioeconomic health inequalities, especially if we link status-based stressors to the specific types of mental health problems they are likely to produce. 10. Turner and Avison (2003) found that young men report more discrimination events than women. However, these differences may reflect the greater likelihood that young men are engaged in social contexts (e.g., workplace) in which discrimination is more likely. "
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    ABSTRACT: In this article, I share some thoughts about how we might extend the study of mental health inequalities by drawing from key insights in sociology and sociological social psychology about the nature of inequality and the processes through which it is produced, maintained, and resisted. I suggest several questions from sociological research on stratification that could help us understand unexpected patterns of mental health inequalities. I also advocate for the analysis of "generic" social psychological processes through which inequalities are produced, maintained, and resisted within proximate social environments. I consider the role of two such processes-status/devaluation processes and identity processes-in mental health inequalities. I then discuss how we can strengthen connections across subfields of the sociology of mental health by applying status and identity theories to two areas of research: (1) help-seeking and (2) the effects of mental health problems on social attainments. © American Sociological Association 2015.
    Journal of Health and Social Behavior 04/2015; 56(2). DOI:10.1177/0022146515581619 · 2.72 Impact Factor
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    • "Finally, chronic stress was measured with a 33-item checklist of stressors such as long-term debt, ongoing conflict with a partner/boyfriend or chronic illness in the last 12 months on a scale of 0 (never), 1 (sometimes) and 2 (often) (Turner & Avison, 2003; Turner et al., 1995). A summation index of all items ranged from 0 to 66. Chronic stressors have shown good predictive value for mental distress and drug use (McDonough, Walters, & Strohschein, 2002; Turner & Avison, 2003). "
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    ABSTRACT: This study examined the role of stress as a mediator of the relationship between prior drug addiction and current high-risk sexual behaviour. Eight hundred twenty women aged 18 to 30 years, who received care at community-based family planning clinics, were interviewed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview and the Sexual Risk Behavior Assessment Schedule. They also completed the brief version of the Self-Control Scale as a measure of problem-solving strategies and measures of recent stressful events, daily hassles and ongoing chronic stress. Regardless of addiction history, stress exposure during the previous 12 months was associated with risky sexual behaviour during the previous 12 months. Structural equation modelling revealed that 12-month stress levels mediated the relationship between past drug addiction and 12-month high-risk sexual behaviours, as well as the negative relationship between problem-solving strategies and high-risk sexual behaviours. Problem-solving strategies did not moderate the relationship between drug addiction and high-risk sexual behaviours. These findings suggest that stress management training may help reduce risky behaviour among young, low-income women Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    Stress and Health 06/2014; DOI:10.1002/smi.2587 · 1.81 Impact Factor
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    • "Viewed in light of reported associations with stress and both race/ethnicity and SES (e.g. [68]), and the numerous recent reports of interacting effects of stress and Val 158 Met genotype on a large variety of conditions [33-38], differential COMT methylation state as a function of stress in Met carriers is a plausible underlying molecular mechanism for these interacting associations and warrants further study. "
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    ABSTRACT: The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) enzyme has been widely studied due to its multiple roles in neurological functioning, estrogen biology, and methylation metabolic pathways. Numerous studies have investigated variation in the large COMT gene, with the majority focusing on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). This body of work has linked COMT genetic variation with a vast array of conditions, including several neurobehavioral disorders, pain sensitivity, and multiple human cancers. Based on COMT's numerous biological roles and recent studies suggesting that methylation of the COMT gene impacts COMT gene expression, we comprehensively interrogated methylation in over 200 CpG dinucleotide sequences spanning the length of the COMT gene. Using saliva-derived DNA from a non-clinical sample of human subjects, we tested for associations between COMT CpG methylation and factors reported to interact with COMT genetic effects, including demographic factors and alcohol use. Finally, we tested associations between COMT CpG methylation state and COMT gene expression in breast cancer cell lines. We interrogated >200 CpGs in 13 amplicons spanning the 5' UTR to the last exon of the CpG dinucleotide-rich COMT gene in n = 48 subjects, n = 11 cell lines and 1 endogenous 18S rRNA control. With the exception of the CpG island in the 5'UTR and 1st exon, all other CpG islands were strongly methylated with typical dynamic ranges between 50-90%. In the saliva samples, methylation of multiple COMT loci was associated with socioeconomic status or ethnicity. We found associations between methylation at numerous loci and genotype at the functional Val158Met SNP (rs4680), and most of the correlations between methylation and demographic and alcohol use factors were Val158Met allele-specific. Methylation at several of these loci also associated with COMT gene expression in breast cancer cell lines. We report the first comprehensive interrogation of COMT methylation. We corroborate previous findings of variation in COMT methylation with gene expression and the Val158Met genotype, and also report novel associations with socioeconomic status (SES) and ethnicity at several methylated loci. These results point to novel mechanisms for COMT regulation, which may have broad therapeutic implications.
    BMC Medical Genomics 01/2014; 7(1):5. DOI:10.1186/1755-8794-7-5 · 2.87 Impact Factor
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