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'

KATHRYN M. OLSZOWY, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio, received a grant in April 2017 to aid research on ‘Investigation of Psychosocial Stress as a Contributor to Sex Differences in Obesity Risk in Vanuatu.’ Globally, women are approximately 1.5 times as likely to be obese than men. The gender gap in obesity is larger in unstable socioeconomic contexts, such as in rapidly developing nations. The objective of this proposal was to investigate why women are more likely to be obese than men in the context of rapid economic development, with an emphasis on understanding the role of psychosocial distress in the disparity. The proposal objective was investigated in Vanuatu, a developing South Pacific Island nation undergoing a rapid health transition. In June-August 2017, 369 Ni-Vanuatu participants on two islands (Efate and Aneityum) completed a sociobehavioral survey (including questions on psychological distress), underwent anthropometric assessment of obesity status, and provided hair and blood spot samples for laboratory assessment of physiological stress (hair cortisol) and inflammation (C-reactive protein). Analyses showed no difference in perceived distress between men and women, and no association between psychological distress or physiological stress and obesity. However, marriage was a salient predictor of both physiological stress and obesity in women, even when controlling for parity. Longitudinal follow-up in this cohort will address new questions raised by this study regarding the relationship between sex/gender, stress, and obesity during economic development.