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Chronic Stress and Food Insecurity

Examining Key Environmental Family Factors Related to Body Mass Index Among Low-Income Mexican-Origin Youth

Distel, Laura M. L., MA; Egbert, Amy H., MA; Bohnert, Amy M., PhD; Santiago, Catherine DeCarlo, PhD

doi: 10.1097/FCH.0000000000000228
Original Articles

Low-income children of Mexican immigrants are at high risk for obesity. Drawing on a sample of 104 Mexican American children (Mage = 8.39 years; 61% female), this longitudinal study considered relations between food insecurity and chronic stress (ie, parent report and hair cortisol measurement) on body mass index (BMI) and examined whether stress moderated associations between food insecurity and BMI. Analyses revealed that undocumented status was associated with food insecurity and chronic stress but not when accounting for poverty. Food insecurity was only associated with higher BMI for children with the highest hair cortisol. Results suggest that chronic stress may impact body weight among food-insecure children.

Department of Psychology, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

Correspondence: Laura M. L. Distel, MA, Department of Psychology, Loyola University Chicago, 1032 W Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60660 (

This research was funded by the Foundation for Child Development (; PI: Dr Santiago). We greatfully acknowledge Stephanie K. Brewer, PhD for her consultation on the hair cortisol data.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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