Project Title: Psychological Stress: A Key Mediator in the Relationship Between Race/Ethnicity, Socioeconomic Status, and Obesity in U.S. Adults
Project Type: Literature Review
The purpose of my culminating experience (CE) was to explore chronic psychological stress as a potential mediator in the relationship between social determinants of health (race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status) and obesity.
A systematic literature review was performed to establish the relationship between:
Social determinants of health and obesity.
Social determinants of health and psychological stress.
Psychological stress and obesity.
The establishment of these three relationships allows the construction of a conceptual framework to describe the role of mediating factors. Although evidence supports psychological stress as a key mediator, the effect appears to be much stronger in women than in men. Future research should focus on longitudinal designs that incorporate the measurement of each part of the proposed conceptual framework. However, when designing prevention programs and interventions, we must consider the existing evidence that shows the detrimental role psychological stress plays in the development of obesity.
The figure shows the conceptual framework through which psychological stress mediates the relationship between race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status and obesity. Social environmental determinants of health include neighborhood order, food security, social support and racism. Biological determinants of health include "comfort eating," hormonal imbalance, inflammation and oxidative stress.
What compelled you to choose this topic for your project?
Obesity and stress are two areas of interest for me. This project allowed me to explore these topics while integrating everything I had learned throughout the MPH@GW program.
What was your favorite aspect of the CE project?
I really enjoyed having the opportunity to take a topic that I was passionate about and have free rein to do whatever I wanted. It also gave me a chance to reflect on all of the classes I had taken over my two years in the program and apply my skills to one specific issue.
How do you hope to apply the skills you learned during your project in your career?
Since graduating from the MPH@GW program, I have begun medical school. I hope to incorporate my findings from the project into how I approach my patients and discuss related topics with them.