Stress and Trajectories of Change in Body Mass: A Life Course Perspective
Debra J. Umberson, University of Texas at Austin
Hui Liu, University of Texas at Austin
Corinne Reczek, University of Texas at Austin
Sociologists and demographers have not considered how psychosocial stress affects weight change in the general population and how this linkage might vary over the life course or across social groups. We analyze growth curve models (using data from four waves of a national survey) to consider the effects of childhood stress and adult stress burden on trajectories of change in body mass across the life course. Our results suggest that both childhood stress and adult stress burden contribute to weight gain among younger respondents (under age 55) and to weight loss among older respondents (age 55 and older) but this pattern holds only for women. Increases in adult stress burden are associated with accelerated weight gain among African Americans, regardless of age.