Associations of Abdominal Fat With Perceived Racism and Passive Emotional Responses to Racism in African American Women

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An excess in abdominal fat may predispose African American women to chronic health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Because stress may increase body fat in the center-body region, we used the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) to examine associations between excess abdominal fat and perceived racism (a chronic stressor) and daily stress. Passive emotional responses to perceived racism, hypothesized to have particularly adverse effects, were also examined.


We controlled for body mass index in multiple logistic regression models among 447 African American women who completed a telephone interview on perceived racism.


Passive emotional responses were not related to WHR (odds ratio [OR] = 1.4; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.8, 2.4). High perceived racism was associated with a low WHR in this population (OR = 0.4; 95% CI = 0.3, 0.8). However, high daily stress was related to a high WHR (OR = 2.7; 95% CI = 1.1, 6.7).


Findings support an association between daily stress and WHR but do not support our hypothesis that passive emotional responses to perceived racism increase abdominal fat. Further study of the stress physiology of perceived racism in African American women is warranted.

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