People with obesity are at increased risk of chronic stress, and this may have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are also associated with both obesity and stress, and may modify risk of stress among people with obesity. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the associations between obesity, ACEs, and stress during the pandemic, and to determine if the association between obesity and stress was modified by ACEs.
A longitudinal study was conducted among adults aged 50–96 years (
n= 23,972) from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) COVID-19 Study. Obesity and ACEs were collected pre-pandemic (2015–2018), and stress was measured at COVID-19 Exit Survey (Sept-Dec 2020). We used logistic, Poisson, and negative binomial regression to estimate relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the associations between obesity, ACEs, and stress outcomes during the pandemic. Interaction by ACEs was evaluated on the additive and multiplicative scales. Results
People with obesity were more likely to experience an increase in overall stressors (class III obesity vs. healthy weight RR = 1.19; 95% CI: 1.12–1.27) as well as increased health related stressors (class III obesity vs. healthy weight RR: 1.25; 95% CI: 1.12–1.39) but did not perceive the consequences of the pandemic as negative. ACEs were also associated an increase in overall stressors (4–8 ACEs vs. none RR = 1.38; 95% CI: 1.33–1.44) and being more likely to perceive the pandemic as negative (4–8 ACEs vs. none RR = 1.32; 95% CI: 1.19–1.47). The association between obesity and stress was not modified by ACEs.
Increased stress during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic was observed among people with obesity or ACEs. The long-term outcomes of stress during the pandemic need to be determined.