Do Poor Health Behaviors Amplify or Diminish the Association between Stress and Mental Health? An Empirical Examination of the Environmental Affordance Model

Andrea K. Henderson, University of South Carolina
Adrianne Dues, University of South Carolina
Calley Fisk, University of South Carolina

In epidemiological studies, Blacks report poorer physical health but similar or lower rates of clinically diagnosed mental disorders than Whites. The Environmental Affordance (EA) model was developed to explain this “paradox.” EA posits that Blacks may rely on poor health behaviors (PHB) to cope with stress arising from their social location in the stratification system, which protects their mental health but has negative long-term physical health consequences. We test the EA model using Wave IV data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, restricting our sample to Whites, Blacks, and Latinos. Our study extends that of prior work by using three stress indicators – perceived stress, discrimination, and economic hardship – as well as a comprehensive set of recent PHB. Contrary to expectations of the EA model, preliminary results suggest that PHB amplifies the effects of several dimensions of stress on depressive symptoms among Black and Latino young adults.

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 Presented in Session P5. Adult Health and Mortality