Janet Monroe
Dr. Laurel Peterson
Psychology Department

The influence of psychosocial and behavioral factors on self-reported stress in African Americans

              A rich literature in health psychology illustrates the detrimental effects of stress on health outcomes, and points to stress as a potential mechanism contributing to health disparities between African American and white individuals. The effects of psychosocial stress can manifest in hypopituitary-adrenal-cortical axis responses, resulting in subclinical dysregulation of diurnal cortisol hormone profiles. Previous literature has established a relationship between negative health outcomes and the experience of chronic stress, which may be particularly prevalent in African Americans due to the added burden of racial discrimination. The Health and Racial Discrimination in Daily Life study in Professor Peterson’s lab collects data on physiological (via salivary cortisol) and self-reported stress, discrimination, and other psychosocial factors, using ambulatory assessment (i.e., sampling over the course of the day outside the lab). My SSR project will involve data collection from participants and examining the relationship between psychosocial and behavioral factors (e.g., discrimination, sleep quality) and self-reported stress in emerging adult African Americans. Through this research, it will be possible to explore risk factors that have an influence on the stress experienced by African Americans, providing preliminary data to launch a follow up study on hypopituitary-adrenal-cortical indicators. The identification of these influential factors offers the potential to understand the relationship between traditionally-measured self-report stress and bioindicators of trait stress-response among emerging adult African Americans.

Keywords: Health; Stress; Cortisol; Health disparities; Discrimination