Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Ike Oksoun

Second Advisor

Dr. Rodney Lyn



The Implications of Chronic Stress on Obesity: Allostatic Load on Body Mass Index (BMI) Classification in the United States, NHANES 2005-2006

INTRODUCTION: In this modern environment, our world is reflecting an exponential increase in not only population, but in body size. Obesity is an overwhelming public health concern among the United States population. Research has shown there is a positive correlation between adiposity and stress. Allostatic load (AL) has been presented to be a consistent measure of chronic stress damage on the body. Yet, there is few studies exemplifying the presence AL on classification of body mass index (BMI).

AIM: The aim of this study is to find a relationship between allostatic load (AL) and body mass index (BMI) classification in the United States adult population on a large national scale. This complex interaction can predetermine who among the US population will be at greater risk for excess adiposity following this psychoneuroendocrinology.

METHODS: A representative sample size of n=3826 was gathered using NHANES data (2005-2006). Criteria for sample included all United States adults that had numerical values for 10 biomarkers chosen to represent chronic stress damage (allostatic load) along with individual body mass index (BMI). Allostatic load (low, high) and BMI classification (underweight to class III obese) were further categorized on severity and computed in SPSS to find significance between gradients of each variable (α=.05). Cross-sectional analysis and logistical regression (multivariate) were used to further decipher an association between allostatic load and BMI category.

RESULTS: A strong positive correlation between allostatic load risk and BMI category was found (p<.001). Also among the variables in the study, significance was found within the strata of age, gender, race, smoking status and poverty income ratio (PIR). Findings show a strong statistically significant relationship between allostatic load and BMI.

DISCUSSION: It is imperative to decipher the directional relationship between stress and obesity to provide effective treatment. Understanding the pathology of how stress affects adiposity could open the door for many clinical and public health interventions to eradicate a very preventable outcome. By addressing the effect of chronic stress, a new avenue of prevention can be developed to combat the growing obesity rates in the United States.