Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 1091–1103 | Cite as

The role of emotional eating in the links between racial discrimination and physical and mental health

  • Lori S. HoggardEmail author
  • Vanessa Volpe
  • Alvin Thomas
  • Ellie Wallace
  • Katrina Ellis


The environmental affordances (EA) model posits that maladaptive self-regulatory strategies (e.g., emotional eating) directly and indirectly heighten African Americans’ risk for downstream medical morbidities while also potentially mitigating the psychological impact of stressors. We empirically tested the full EA model. In doing so, we investigated the associations among racial discrimination, depressive symptomatology, and physical health proxies as well as the intervening role of emotional eating in these associations among 150 African Americans aged 18–27. The increased frequency of experiencing racial discrimination was significantly associated with poorer self-reported health, greater depressive symptomatology, and more emotional eating. There was no significant association between emotional eating and physical health and emotional eating did not mediate the relation between racial discrimination and physical health. Finally, racial discrimination was associated with depressive symptomatology, but only among African Americans with mean or high levels of emotional eating.


Racial discrimination Physical health Depressive symptoms Emotional eating Environmental affordances model African Americans 



This research was supported by funding awarded to the first author by the National Science Foundation Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Division (537597).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Lori S. Hoggard, Vanessa Volpe, Alvin Thomas, Ellie Wallace, and Katrina Ellis declares that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRutgers University-New BrunswickPiscatawayUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyPalo Alto UniversityPalo AltoUSA
  4. 4.University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  5. 5.School of Social WorkUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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