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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Public Health

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Nicole A. VanKim

Second Advisor

Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson

Third Advisor

Brian W. Whitcomb

Fourth Advisor

Airín D. Martínez

Subject Categories



Excess adiposity is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and premature mortality. It is well-documented that Black women are disproportionately affected by excess adiposity. Research has focused on lifestyle factors, such as diet and physical activity, to explain the higher prevalence of obesity among Black women compared to white women; however, there is much less research on the association between psychological distress and adiposity, which may be important for understanding racial disparities. To date, no studies have examined the social context by which mental health and physical health are related. Black women in U.S. society live in a social context in which their racial position has been constructed to limit their rights, recognition, and material resources in multiple institutions hence, being exposed to more structural and interpersonal racism than the White population. To cope with these stressors, Black women may draw on social supports, like family and social cohesion to mitigate race-related stressors and preserve their health. Utilizing data from the National Health Interview Survey and Black Women’s Experiences Living with Lupus Study, we examined 1) the relationship between psychological distress and adiposity, 2) how a psychosocial stressor such as racial discrimination is related to psychological distress and adiposity, and 3) how social support and neighborhood cohesiveness may buffer the effect of racial discrimination and psychological distress on adiposity. Our findings suggest that for Black women, psychological distress is associated with excess adiposity and racial discrimination is a commonly experienced stressor that contributes to excess adiposity. Findings also suggest that social support and neighborhood cohesiveness may provide Black women the necessary safe spaces to discuss race-related stressors to improve their health.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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