Haslyn E.R. Hunte, an assistant professor of health and kinesiology at Purdue University, says researchers compared health and aging data on 1,400 study subjects, predominantly white, from the 1995 and 2004 National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States.
The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found men who reported being discriminated against at high levels -- for any reason -- have an average waistline increase of 2.39 centimeters, about 1 inch, compared to those who reported low levels of discrimination over a nine-year period. Women who reported high levels of discrimination had an average waistline increase of 1.88 cm, more than a half inch, compared to those reporting low levels of discrimination for the same study period.
Hunte says researchers focused on waist circumference instead of body mass index because abdominal fat is a better indicator of poor cardiovascular health.
"While this study shows there is a difference between men and women, it doesn't provide specific reasons for that difference," Hunte says in a statement. "More research will need to be done to understand how and why men and women cope differently with this stress or if there are differences in how their bodies react."