Sex differences in the relation between perceived stress and Body Mass Index in a nationally representative sample of young adults


Suglia, Shakira F.; Pamplin, J.; Forde, A.; & Shelton, R. (2015). Sex differences in the relation between perceived stress and Body Mass Index in a nationally representative sample of young adults. Obesity Society Conference. Los Angeles.


Background: Perceived stress has been associated with increased risk of obesity, higher waist circumference and higher Body Mass Index (BMI), however sex differences have largely not been examined to date. Methods: We examined the relationship between perceived stress and BMI and waist circumference in young adults in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent and Adult Health. During the wave 4 home visit, participants (mean age 29.0 n=14,283) completed the short form of Cohen’s Perceived Stress Scale (PSS); responses were summed to create a PSS scale. Height, weight and waist circumference were assessed during the same visit. BMI was calculated based on measured height and weight. Smoking status (current, former or never) and physical activity were assessed based on self-report during the wave 4 follow-up visit. To characterize socioeconomic status highest education level attained was characterized as less than high school, high school education, some college or completing a college degree or higher. Results: In the sample, 50% were female and 67% identified as white. A sex by PSS interaction was noted (p < 0.05). In linear regression analyses adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, smoking status and physical activity, perceived stress was statistically significantly associated with lower BMI (B -0.10 SE 0.04) and lower waist circumference (B -0.20 SE 0.09) among men. No associations between perceived stress and BMI or waist circumference were noted among women. Conclusion: In this nationally representative sample of young adults, sex differences are noted on the association between perceived stress and BMI. Contrary to previous findings perceived stress was associated with lower levels of adiposity among men. Future studies should examine differential coping strategies in response to stress between men and women as well as biological mechanisms that may explain the noted association.

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

Obesity Society Conference


Suglia, Shakira F.
Pamplin, J.
Forde, A.
Shelton, R.

Year Published


City of Publication

Los Angeles

Reference ID