Psychosocial Stress and Change in Weight Among US Adults

A study that spanned nine years found various types of stress associated with weight gain for both men and women in the U.S. There were significant differences in weight gain between the oldest and youngest age groups.

This article describes connections between several types of psychosocial stress and weight gain. The authors present data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS; 1995) study and follow-up conducted in 2004. Both the baseline study and the follow-up used telephone surveys and self-report questionnaires. Statistical analysis employed a number of stress scales that covered different areas of work and personal experience. Because changes in weight status and eating behaviors related to psychosocial factors have been shown to differ for men and women, this study stratified results by gender.

Key Findings:

  • Greater degrees of financial and work-related stress were associated with increased weight gain for both men and women.
  • Stress associated with life outside of work, including strained family relationships, led to weight gain among women but not men.

This study of a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults extends previous research by implementing several measures of psychosocial stress and examining differences in weight gain between men and women.