Snacking and Diet Quality Are Associated With the Coping Strategies Used By a Socioeconomically Diverse Urban Cohort of African-American and White Adults

Published:March 29, 2017DOI:



      Stress affects health-related quality of life through several pathways, including physiological processes and health behaviors. There is always a relationship between stress (the stimulus) and coping (the response). The relationship between snacking and snackers’ diet quality and stress coping is a topic overlooked in research.


      The study was primarily designed to determine whether energy provided by snacks and diet quality were associated with coping behaviors to manage stress.


      We analyzed a baseline cohort of the Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span study (2004 to 2009).


      The sample was composed of 2,177 socioeconomically diverse African-American and white adults who resided in Baltimore, MD.

      Main outcome measures

      Energy from snacks was calculated from 2 days of 24-hour dietary recalls collected using the US Department of Agriculture’s Automated Multiple Pass Method. Snack occasions were self-reported as distinct eating occasions. Diet quality was evaluated by the Healthy Eating Index-2010.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Multiple regression analyses were used to determine whether coping factors were associated with either energy provided by snacks or Healthy Eating Index-2010, adjusting for age, sex, race, socioeconomic status, education, literacy, and perceived stress. Coping was measured by the Brief COPE Inventory with instrument variables categorized into three factors: problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping, and use of support. Perceived stress was measured with the 4-item Perceived Stress Scale.


      Adjusting for perceived stress and selected demographic characteristics, emotion-focused coping strategies were associated with greater energy intakes from snacks (P=0.020), and use of coping strategies involving support was positively associated with better diet quality (P=0.009).


      Energy contributed by snacks and diet quality were affected by the strategy that an individual used to cope with stress. The findings suggest that health professionals working with individuals seeking guidance to modify their eating practices should assess a person’s coping strategies to manage stress.


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      M. Fanelli Kuczmarski is a professor, Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition, University of Delaware, Newark.


      N. Cotugna is a professor, Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition, University of Delaware, Newark.


      E. L. Adams is a research nutritionist, Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition, University of Delaware, Newark.


      R. T. Pohlig is a biostatistician, College of Health Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark.


      M. A. Beydoun is a staff scientist and epidemiologist, Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD.


      M. K. Evans is deputy scientific director and chief of health disparities research section, Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD.


      A. B. Zonderman is a senior investigator and psychologist, Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD.