The role of stress responses on engagement in dietary and physical activity behaviors among Latino adults living with prediabetes

Ethn Health. 2022 Aug;27(6):1395-1409. doi: 10.1080/13557858.2021.1880549. Epub 2021 Feb 10.


Objectives: Latinos are at a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D). Prediabetes is a major risk factor for T2D; however, progression to T2D can be slowed with engagement in healthy behaviors. Stress can hinder engagement with health behaviors. Qualitative methods were used to understand how Latinos with prediabetes attempted to modify their diet and physical activity behaviors to slow T2D progression and how stress affected their engagement in these behaviors.

Design: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 Latinos with prediabetes in North Carolina. Participants were asked questions about types of stress they experienced and how stress affected their health. We generated codes on stress and stress responses and used content analysis to organize codes between and within participants.

Results: Behaviors changed after prediabetes diagnosis. Few participants reported changing their physical activity, however, all participants attempted to change their eating patterns by changing food types consumed and reducing portion sizes. The stress participants experienced impacted their ability to self-regulate their diet. They reported overeating or appetite suppression during stressful periods. Stress also affected cognitive responses by compromising healthy decision-making and instigating negative emotional reactions. Overall, stress complicated participants' ability to properly engage in recommended behaviors by negatively impacting participants' behavioral self-regulation and cognitive processes.

Conclusions: Stress affects behavioral and cognitive progresses that adversely alters primarily dietary behaviors. Tailored plans acknowledging the impact of stress and providing coping and supportive help for dealing with stress may enhance engagement in healthy behaviors for Latinos with prediabetes.

Keywords: Hispanic; Latino; Stress response; discrimination; prediabetes; qualitative analysis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / psychology
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Prediabetic State*