Differential associations between psychosocial stress and obesity among Ghanaians in Europe and in Ghana: findings from the RODAM study

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2020 Jan;55(1):45-56. doi: 10.1007/s00127-019-01682-1. Epub 2019 Mar 11.


Purpose: Psychosocial stress is associated with obesity in some populations, but it is unclear whether the association is related to migration. This study explored associations between psychosocial stress and obesity among Ghanaian migrants in Europe and non-migrant Ghanaians in Ghana.

Methods: Cross-sectional data from the RODAM study were used, including 5898 Ghanaians residing in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, rural Ghana, and urban Ghana. Perceived discrimination, negative life events and stress at work or at home were examined in relation to body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC). Linear regression analyses were performed separately for migrants and non-migrants stratified by sex.

Results: Perceived discrimination was not associated with BMI and WC in both migrants and non-migrants. However, negative life events were positively associated with BMI (β = 0.78, 95% CI 0.34-1.22) and WC (β = 1.96, 95% CI 0.79-3.12) among male Ghanaian migrants. Similarly, stress at work or at home was positively associated with BMI (β = 0.28, 95% CI 0.00-0.56) and WC (β = 0.84, 95% CI 0.05-1.63) among male Ghanaian migrants. Among non-migrant Ghanaians, in contrast, stress at work or at home was inversely associated with BMI and WC in both males (β = - 0.66, 95% CI - 1.03 to - 0.28; β = - 1.71 95% CI - 2.69 to - 0.73, respectively) and females (β = - 0.81, 95% CI - 1.20 to - 0.42; β = - 1.46, 95% CI - 2.30 to - 0.61, respectively).

Conclusions: Negative life events and stress at work or at home are associated with increased body weight among male Ghanaians in European settings, whereas stress at work or at home is associated with reduced body weight among Ghanaians in Ghana. More work is needed to understand the underlying factors driving these differential associations to assist prevention efforts.

Keywords: BMI; Ghana; Life events; Migration; Stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / ethnology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Ghana / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Occupational Stress / complications
  • Occupational Stress / ethnology*
  • Rural Population
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / ethnology*
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology*
  • United Kingdom
  • Urban Population

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