Stress Measured by Allostatic Load Varies by Reason for Immigration, Age at Immigration, and Number of Children: The Africans in America Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jun 24;17(12):4533. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17124533.


Stress leads to physiologic dysfunction and cardiometabolic disease. Allostatic load score (ALS) measures stress-induced cardiovascular, metabolic, and inflammatory biomarkers. We estimated the odds of high ALS by reason for and age at immigration, duration of American residence, number of children, and socioeconomic status in 193 African immigrants (male: 65%, age 41 ± 10 y (mean ± Standard Deviation (SD)), range 22-65 y). ALS was calculated with High-ALS defined as ALS ≥ 3.0 and Low-ALS defined as ALS < 3.0. Oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT) were performed, the cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk estimated, and TNF-α, an inflammatory cytokine, measured. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds of High-ALS. In the High- and Low-ALS groups, ALS were 4.0 ± 1.2 vs. 1.3 ± 0.7, diabetes prevalence: 14% vs. 4%, CVD risk: 23% vs. 8%, TNF-α levels: 15 ± 9 vs. 11 ± 6 pg/mL, respectively (all p ≤ 0.01). Immigrants were more likely to be in the High-ALS group if their reason for immigration was work or asylum/refugee (OR 2.18, p = 0.013), their age at immigration was ≥30 y (OR 3.28, p < 0.001), their duration of residence in United States was ≥10 y (OR 3.16, p = 0.001), or their number of children was ≥3 (OR 2.67, p = 0.019). Education, income, health insurance, marital status, and gender did not affect High-ALS odds. Factors adversely influencing allostatic load and cardiometabolic health in African immigrants were age at and reason for immigration, duration of residence in America, and number of children.

Keywords: African immigrants; allostatic load score; cardiometabolic health; stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Africa / ethnology
  • Allostasis*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emigrants and Immigrants* / psychology
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Refugees* / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • United States