Self-perceived stress is associated with adiposity and atherosclerosis. The GEA Study

BMC Public Health. 2015 Aug 14;15:780. doi: 10.1186/s12889-015-2112-8.


Background: A growing body of evidence suggests that psychological stress is an independent cardiovascular risk factor. Obesity prevalence shows accelerating trends worldwide, and is known to be associated with a range of comorbidities and survival. The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between self-perceived psychological stress with parameters of adiposity, metabolic syndrome, and subclinical atherosclerosis in Mexican participants.

Methods: Metabolic Syndrome was defined using the Adult Treatment Panel III criteria, obesity was defined as BMI >30, subclinical atherosclerosis disease was determined by computed tomography, and carotid intima media thickness was determined by ultrasonography. Self-perceived psychological stress was assessed using a single-item questionnaire.

Results: A total of 1243 control subjects were included in the sample, mean age 54.2 ± 9 years old; the prevalence of chronic self-perceived psychological stress (>5 years) was 10.13 %, female gender (62.7 %), obesity prevalence (48.4 %), and self-reporting sedentary lifestyle (56.3 %). The chronic stressed cohort presented higher subcutaneous abdominal fat content (285 vs 319 cm(2)), and carotid intima media thickness (0.63 vs 0.66 mm; p < 0.01 for both). However, after adjustment for lifestyle/social covariates (Model 1) and biological mediators (Model 2), chronic self-perceived stress was independently associated with obesity in men (OR 2.85, 95 % CI 1.51 - 5.40) and carotid atherosclerosis in women (OR 2.262, 95 % CI 1.47 - 4.67; p < 0.01 for both).

Conclusion: Our study suggests that self-reported chronic stress is an independent risk factor for obesity in men. In addition, carotid atherosclerosis was also found to be an independent risk factor in women in a Mexican population sample.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Carotid Intima-Media Thickness
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Mexico / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*