Thin Men, Heavy Women: How Distress and Gendered Strategies of Coping May Explain Sex Differences in Obesity in Poor, Urban Communities

Marissa Seamans, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Whitney Robinson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

In poor, urban settings, obesity prevalence is much higher in women than men. Mechanisms underlying this gendered patterning of obesity are poorly understood, but gender differences in psychological distress stemming from neighborhood disadvantage may offer an explanation. We investigated whether Black and White men and women sharing the same disadvantaged environment report different levels of distress. We used the Exploring Health Disparities in Integrated Communities-Southwest Baltimore study (EHDIC-SWB), a 2003 population-based survey of residents in a low-income, racially integrated community with no race difference in income. We contextualized these results using the 2003 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). In EHDIC-SWB, White women reported higher distress than White men, Black women, and Black men. In NHIS, females reported higher distress than males with no racial difference. Gendered strategies of coping with neighborhood stressors may offer an additional explanation for the association between disadvantage and increased obesity in women but not men.

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Presented in Session 63: Gender Disparities in Health and Mortality