Stress and Social Support Among Adult, Diabetic, African American Women

Joanne Thomas, Walden University


Diabetes affects millions of women in the United States, and is a major cause of disability and death for a disproportionate number of African American women. Stress has been found to be a contributor to the development of diabetes. It is not known whether social support may improve the way African American women are affected by diabetes or how stress contributes to the progression of this disease in this population. The purpose of this cross-sectional quantitative study was to explore the relationship between stress levels, as measured by the African American Women's Stress Scale; social support, as measured by the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support; and their influence on diabetes, as measured by HbA1C levels. The study consisted of a convenience sample of diabetic African American women (ages 18-64) in the Northeastern United States (n = 81). The social ecological model was used as the theoretical framework. Analysis of variance and correlation analyses were used to test the hypotheses. The difference in the adjusted mean stress score between high and low A1C individuals was notably larger among the strata of women with low social support (MSPSS1 <62) compared to the high social support group or overall. There was a 20-point difference in mean stress in the strata of low social support, compared to only a 9-point difference among high support and a 13-point difference overall. These results indicate an interaction between social support and A1C level. African American women and the general public can benefit from the results of this study, in the development of programs aimed at providing clinical as well as social support to this population.