Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

William Sacco, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Kristen Salomon, Ph.D.

Keywords

Socioeconomic status, Depression, Body mass index, Waist circumference, C-reactive protein

Abstract

The inflammatory process is important in protecting the body against the invasion of pathogens, but recent research has suggested that a long-term inflammatory response may lead to chronic diseases (e.g., Black, 2003; Wu, Dorn, Donahue, Sempos, & Trevisan, 2002). Two factors that have been implicated in the inflammatory and disease processes are stress and obesity (Black, 2003). While their individual lines of research continue to grow, few researchers have attempted to integrate these factors into one model to explain their effects on inflammation. This study aimed to replicate previous findings suggesting relationships between stress, obesity and inflammation and test an integrated model of stress and obesity by examining a possible interaction between the effects of stress and obesity on inflammation. Socioeconomic Status (SES) and depression were employed to examine the association between stress and the inflammatory marker, c-reactive protein (CRP). The study utilized the data resulting from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES; National Center for Health Statistics, 2006). Included in the dataset are 4998 adults (2416 males and 2582 females) ranging in age from 18 years to over 85 years (M = 47.13, SD = 20.86). A subsample (N = 589) completed the Major Depression module of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CDCI). The results indicate that body mass index, waist circumference, income, education, and depression symptoms significantly predict CRP. The data also suggest an interaction between the adiposity variables and the SES variables. This supports the hypothesis that the inflammatory effect of stress on an individual is moderated by adiposity.

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