Kathryn Olszowy

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Cleveland State U.

Grant number

Gr. 9426

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

Olszowy, Dr. Kathryn M., Cleveland State U., Cleveland, OH - To aid research on 'Investigation of Psychosocial Stress as a Contributor to Sex Differences in Obesity Risk in Vanuatu'

Preliminary abstract: Prevalence of obesity is rapidly increasing worldwide, and globally, women are significantly more likely to be obese than men. While formerly obesity was primarily a problem in high-income countries, it has more recently become a significant public health issue in developing nations. The objective of this proposal is to investigate why women are more likely to be obese than men in a developing nation context, with an emphasis on understanding the role of psychosocial stress in this disparity. The proposal objective will be investigated in the Republic of Vanuatu, a developing South Pacific Island nation undergoing a rapid health transition. Past research has demonstrated that obesity is more prevalent among women in Vanuatu, particularly in urban areas, although the disparity persists regardless of economic context. Examination of associations with modifiable behavioral risk factors, including diet and activity, have not adequately explained the male/female obesity disparity, although previous research did not include assessment of psychosocial stress. The proposed project will investigate 1) associations between perceived stress and obesity in reproductive-aged men and women across three islands of varying economic development in Vanuatu; 2) biomarkers of chronic stress and inflammation in a sub-sample of high- and low-stress men and women; and 3) qualitative experience of stress during economic development in the domains of parenting, spousal/familial relationships, and subsistence. Ultimately, the proposed project investigates whether obesity is related to the experience of psychosocial stress, and whether the disparity in obesity prevalence between men and women is due to differences in the sociocultural context of stress, biological sensitivity to stress, or both.