242098 Impact of Spirituality on Stress Reactivity among Normal, Overweight, and Obese African Americans

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Andrew Hagemaster, PhD , Center for Health Disparities, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD
Elena Spieker, MS , Center for Health Disparities, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD
Tracy Sbrocco, PhD , Center for Health Disparities, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD
Stress is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, which are key health disparities disproportionately affecting African Americans. Defined as a search for the sacred, spirituality has been associated with lower cortisol, a major neuroendocrine mediator of the stress response and a hormone associated with insulin resistance and obesity. Spirituality encourages a healthy lifestyle, provides a source of social support, and enhances psychological resources but evaluation of its role in stress reactivity has not been tested. The current study examined the effects of spirituality, measured by the Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness and Spirituality (BMMRS), on stress reactivity following an acute racial stressor (racially-charged film clip) among (N=160; Age=44.711.2) African American normal, overweight, and obese (Mean BMI (kg/m2)=30.38.6) men (n=59, 37%) and women (n=101, 63%). Stress was measured by systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and salivary cortisol pre and post film. Multiple hierarchical regression analyses revealed that obese participants had a greater increase in cortisol than normal-weight participants (p=.03) following the film. Results did not provide support for spirituality buffering stress responses following the acute stressor for systolic blood pressure (p=.73), diastolic blood pressure (p=.14) or cortisol (p=.11). This study is important because it provides evidence that allostatic load from overweight or obesity increases stress and decreases the body's effectiveness of responding to acute stressors.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
To examine the role of religiousness/ spirituality as a buffer to stress in normal, overweight, and obese African American men and women. To determine the relationship between bodyweight and physiological stress reactivity following an acute stressor among normal, overweight, and obese African American men and women.

Keywords: African American, Faith Community

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I am trained in working with populations prone to health disparities and I am experienced working with data and research programs conducted by the Center for Health Disparities.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.