University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications

UMMS Affiliation

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Clinical and Population Health Research Program; Department of Quantitative Health Sciences; Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine; UMass Worcester Prevention Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Health Psychology | Preventive Medicine | Race and Ethnicity


OBJECTIVE: Nearly half of African-Americans are classified as obese. Perceived racism has been associated with obesity, yet the internal experiences of racism have received little attention. African Americans who face racism may "ready themselves" to cope through survival strategies, including race-related vigilance. This study explores the association between race-related vigilance and obesity in African Americans.

DESIGN AND METHODS: The Reactions to Race module of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (years 2002-2010) was used. Our sample size consisted of 12,214 African-Americans. Race-related vigilance was assessed as: "How often do you think about your race?" and classified as: never, < daily, daily, and > daily. Obesity was dichotomized as body mass index (BMI) > /=30 kg/m2 vs. < 30 kg/m2 using self-reported weight and height. Multivariable logistic models assessed the association between race-related vigilance and obesity.

RESULTS: Seventeen percent of respondents reported thinking about their race > daily; 14% daily; 31% < daily, and 39% reported never thinking about their race. Compared to those who reported never thinking about their race, the adjusted odds of obesity were 0.91, 95% CI: 0.72-1.15 among those thinking about their race < daily, 1.09, 95%CI: 0.81-1.46 among those thinking about their race daily, and 1.37, 95% CI: 1.07-1.76 among those thinking about their race > daily.

CONCLUSIONS: Frequently thinking about one's race was a risk factor for obesity in African-Americans in this study. Internalized impacts of racism captured through race-related vigilance may be particularly detrimental to African-Americans, driving their risk for obesity.


African-Americans, Health disparity, race consciousness, racism

DOI of Published Version



Obes Sci Pract. 2016 Jun;2(2):136-143. doi: 10.1002/osp4.42. Epub 2016 May 26. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Obesity science and practice

PubMed ID


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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