The Influence of Stress on Unhealthy Behaviors and Depressive Symptoms of Black and White Young Adults

Jason D. Boardman, University of Colorado at Boulder
Kari Alexander, University of Colorado at Boulder

This paper uses data from Waves I-III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to examine the mental health of non-Hispanic black and white young adults. We use latent growth curve modeling to characterize the typical stress trajectories experienced by young adults. We identify four stress trajectories and results indicate that black adolescents have a significantly higher risk of being in the three most stressful trajectories compared to white adolescents. Stress is associated with depression and the race differences in stress profiles account for a modest amount of the observed race differences in mental health. We do not observe any race differences in behavioral responses to stressors; black youth are no more likely than white youth to engage in unhealthy behaviors in response to stress. We provide tentative support for the notion that unhealthy behaviors partially reduce the association between stress and depression for blacks but not whites.

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Presented in Session 42: Adolescents, Young Adults, and Mental Health