Introduction: Millions of Americans encounter the legal system each year, although persons of low socioeconomic status and racial/ethnic minorities are disproportionately impacted. The health implications of having legal or police problems have been well-documented, especially among incarcerated populations. Missing from the literature, however, is an insight into the health of those closest to the individuals facing legal and/or police problems—their family.
Hypothesis: Using data from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), we examined the hypothesis that stress related to family member(s) with legal/police problems (FLPP) is associated with higher body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) across 12 years and examined whether this association varied by education or race.
Methods: Participants were 1,550 white, 935 Black, 281 Japanese, and 250 Chinese middle-aged women. Data from baseline through year 13 were analyzed using generalized estimating equations with a year fixed effect. Models were adjusted for site, year, age, race/ethnicity, education, menopausal status, smoking, alcohol use, physical activity, caloric intake, and depressive symptoms.
Results: Of the 3,016 women included at baseline, 16.1% of women reported any FLPP, although lower educated women reported more FLPP (20.4%) than higher educated (12.3%) women, and slightly more FLPP than middle educated women (18.9%). Similarly, Black women reported more FLPP (23.8%) than white (14.3%), Japanese (8.5%), and Chinese (7.6%) women. EducationxFLPP interaction was observed such that among lower, but not middle or higher educated women, FLPP that were reported to be very upsetting were on average associated with higher BMI in age, year, race/ethnicity, menopausal status, and site-adjusted models (beta=0.35, p=0.03), although this association became marginal in fully-adjusted models (beta=0.31, p=0.09). Although race/ethnicityxFLPP interaction was not observed, in race-stratified models, very upsetting FLPP were on average marginally associated with increased levels of BMI among Black women only, in both minimally (beta=0.21, p=0.06) and fully-adjusted (beta=0.21, p=0.08) models.
Conclusions: Our findings based on 12 years of data suggest that lower educated women and Black women who report having a family member with legal or police problems and who find this very upsetting on average have higher BMI. SWAN has grant support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), DHHS, through the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) and the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) (Grants U01NR004061; U01AG012505, U01AG012535, U01AG012531, U01AG012539, U01AG012546, U01AG012553, U01AG012554, U01AG012495). The content of this abstract is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIA, NINR, ORWH or the NIH.