Role of stress in low birthweight disparities between Black and White women: A population-based study

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This study examines the role of stress in low birthweight (LBW) risk in Black and White women in the United States.


Data from the 1998–2000 Fragile Family and Child Wellbeing Study were used (n = 3869). We included several self-reported conditions which we categorised as stressors (i.e. socio-economic conditions, health behaviours, access to quality care and cultural factors), then we used logistic regression models to analyse the role of stressors in explaining the health disparities in LBW.


Most women were unmarried (59% for White women and 87% for Black women). Among unmarried White women, the only stressor associated with a higher likelihood of LBW was smoking (odds ratio (OR) = 2.0, 95% confidence interval (CI) (1.2, 3.3)). Among unmarried Black women, smoking (OR = 1.7, 95% CI (1.2, 2.3)), drug use (OR = 1.7, 95% CI (1.0, 2.6)), paying for the baby's birth with government resources (OR = 1.6, 95% CI (1.1, 2.4)) and religious affiliation (OR = 1.6, 95% CI (1.0, 2.5)) were associated with higher likelihood of LBW. Among married White women, older age (OR = 1.1, 95% CI (1.0, 1.2)), smoking (OR = 5.2, 95% CI (1.7, 15.5)), using governmental resources to pay for birth (OR = 3.6, 95% CI (1.0, 12.4)) and living in governmental housing (OR = 9.1, 95% CI (2.0, 41.1)) were associated with higher likelihood of LBW. No stressors were statistically significant for married Black women.


We analysed a large number of stressors at the individual, household and societal levels and found differences on the stressors among Black and White women. However, the stressors included in the analyses did not fully explain the racial disparities in LBW.

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