The contribution of stress to the social patterning of clinical and subclinical CVD risk factors in African Americans: The Jackson Heart Study

University of Michigan, School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
Social Science [?] Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.89). 07/2012; 75(9):1697-707. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.06.003
Source: PubMed


It is often hypothesized that psychosocial stress may contribute to associations of socioeconomic position (SEP) with risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, few studies have investigated this hypothesis among African Americans, who may be more frequently exposed to stressors due to social and economic circumstances. Cross-sectional data from the Jackson Heart Study (JHS), a large population-based cohort of African Americans, were used to examine the contributions of stressors to the association of SEP with selected cardiovascular (CVD) risk factors and subclinical atherosclerotic disease. Among women, higher income was associated with lower prevalence of hypertension, obesity, diabetes and carotid plaque and lower levels of stress. Higher stress levels were also weakly, albeit positively, associated with hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, but not with plaque. Adjustment for the stress measures reduced the associations of income with hypertension, diabetes and obesity by a small amount that was comparable to, or larger, than the reduction observed after adjustment for behavioral risk factors. In men, high income was associated with lower prevalence of diabetes and stressors were not consistently associated with any of the outcomes examined. Overall, modest mediation effects of stressors were observed for diabetes (15.9%), hypertension (9.7%), and obesity (5.1%) among women but only results for diabetes were statistically significant. No mediation effects of stressors were observed in men. Our results suggest that stressors may partially contribute to associations of SEP with diabetes and possibly hypertension and obesity in African American women. Further research with appropriate study designs and data is needed to understand the dynamic and interacting effects of stressors and behaviors on CVD outcomes as well as sex differences in these effects.

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