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Body weight and self-reported mental health: The double jeopardy problem among California racial minorities

Julia F. Hastings, MSW, PhD and Julian Chow, PhD. School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley, 120 Haviland Hall #7400, Berkeley, CA 94720-7400, (510)642-5584, jhasting@berkeley.edu

Obesity is highly prevalent among minority groups, African Americans in particular, and has also been positively associated with poor mental health (Flegal, et. al., 1998). Unfortunately, few studies focus on the relationship between ethnic differences in body weight, self-reported mental health, and the social environment. Studies combining these topics show conflicting results, probably due to differences in sampling and measurement. This study uses a representative, stratified random sample of 53,697 adults from the 2001 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) to study how body weight affects self-reported mental health among racial and ethnic minorities in California communities. African Americans (36.2%) and Hispanics (26.7%) in metropolitan areas record the highest obesity rates when reporting a mental health problem. Logistic regression analysis revealed a positive relationship between self-reported mental health problems and obesity (OR=1.23, p=.000). Other analysis shows that covariates increasing mental health self-reports include being poor, a woman, gaining education, exercising, rating physical health fair or poor, and living in a metropolitan environment. Racial group membership shows no relationship to mental health reports. The findings highlight how metropolitan social experiences may result in weight gain for African Americans and Hispanics, but diminish mental health problem recognition. Obesity’s higher prevalence among poor African Americans calls for intervention strategies that integrate body weight concerns with mental health symptom awareness. Session participants will be able to: 1) identify social and environmental barriers linking body weight and mental health conditions for racially diverse populations; and 2) discuss the impact of the environment on providing social services to ethnic minorities dealing with weight issues.

Learning Objectives: Session participants will be able to

Keywords: Depression, Obesity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Panel: Environmental Contributions to Mental Disorder for African Americans

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA