Skip to main content
Log in

Examining Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Coping and Stress Within an Environmental Riskscape

Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Existing research on racial/ethnic differences in stress and coping is limited by small samples, single-item measures, and lack of inclusion of Mexican Americans. We address these gaps by analyzing data from the Texas City Stress and Health Study, a cross-sectional sample of Black (N = 257), White (N = 304), US-born (N = 689), and foreign-born (N = 749) Mexican Americans residing in proximity to a petrochemical complex. We compared active and avoidant coping by race/ethnicity and explored multivariable associations between coping and perceived stress. Black and foreign-born Mexican American respondents had the highest stressor exposure yet displayed different patterns of coping and perceived stress patterns. Active coping may be particularly effective for African Americans but may not offset extreme stress disparities. For Mexican Americans, the lack of association between coping and stress underscores the need for more work focused on the culturally diverse coping experiences.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions

Fig. 1


  1. Pearlin LI. The stress process revisited. In: Aneshensel CS, Phelan JC, editors. Handbook of the sociology of mental health. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers; 1999. pp. 395–415. (Handbooks of sociology and social research).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Thoits PA. Stress and Health: Major Findings and Policy Implications. J Health Soc Behav. 2010 Mar 1;51(1_suppl):S41–53.

  3. Turner RJ, Avison WR. Status variations in stress exposure: implications for the interpretation of Research on Race, Socioeconomic Status, and gender. J Health Soc Behav. 2003;44(4):488–505.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Williams DR, Sternthal M. Understanding Racial-ethnic Disparities in Health: Sociological Contributions. J Health Soc Behav. 2010 Mar 1;51(1_suppl):S15–27.

  5. Forrester SN, Gallo JJ, Whitfield KE, Thorpe RJ Jr. A Framework of Minority Stress: From Physiological Manifestations to Cognitive Outcomes.The Gerontologist. 2019 Nov16;59(6):1017–23.

  6. Barnes DM, Bates LM. Do racial patterns in psychological distress shed light on the black–white depression paradox? A systematic review. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2017 Aug;52(8):913–28.

  7. Mouzon DM. Can Family Relationships explain the Race Paradox in Mental Health? J Marriage Fam. 2013 Apr;1(2):470–85.

  8. Mouzon DM. Relationships of choice: can friendships or fictive kinships explain the race paradox in mental health? Soc Sci Res. 2014 Mar;1:44:32–43.

  9. Mouzon DM. Religious involvement and the Black–White Paradox in Mental Health. Race Soc Probl. 2017 Mar;9(1):63–78.

  10. Teruya SA, Bazargan-Hejazi S. The Immigrant and Hispanic Paradoxes: A Systematic Review of Their Predictions and Effects.Hisp J Behav Sci. 2013 Sep5;35(4):486–509.

  11. Lazarus RS, Folkman S, Stress. Appraisal, and coping. In: Gentry WD, editor. Handbook of behavioral medicine. New York: Guilford Press; 1984. pp. 189–217.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Kuo BCH. Coping, acculturation, and psychological adaptation among migrants: a theoretical and empirical review and synthesis of the literature. Health Psychol Behav Med. 2014 Jan;2(1):16–33.

  13. Thoits PA. Stressors and Problem-Solving: the individual as psychological activist. J Health Soc Behav. 1994;35(2):143–60.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Thoits PA. Personal Agency in the stress process. J Health Soc Behav. 2006 Dec;47(1):309–23.

  15. Carver CS, Connor-Smith J. Personality and coping. Annu Rev Psychol. 2010 Feb;61(1):679–704.

  16. Cox K, Diamant J. Black men less religious than black women, but more religious than white women, men [Internet]. Pew Research Center. 2018 [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from:

  17. James SA. John Henryism and the health of African-Americans. Cult Med Psychiatry. 1994 Jun;18(2):163.

  18. Mair CA, Cutchin MP, Kristen Peek M. Allostatic load in an environmental riskscape: the role of stressors and gender. Health Place. 2011 Jul;17(1):978–87.

  19. Stevens-Watkins D, Knighton JS, Allen K, Fisher S, Crowell C, Mahaffey C et al. John Henryism Active Coping as a Cultural Correlate of Substance Abuse Treatment Participation Among African American Women.J Subst Abuse Treat. 2016 Apr1;63:54–60.

  20. Utsey SO, Ponterotto JG, Reynolds AL, Cancelli AA. Racial discrimination, coping, life satisfaction, and self-esteem among African Americans. J Couns Dev. 2000 Winter;78(1):72–80.

  21. Anshel MH, Kang M, Miesner M. The approach-avoidance framework for identifying athletes’ coping style as a function of gender and race. Scand J Psychol. 2010 Aug;51(4):341–9.

  22. Knight BG, Silverstein M, McCallum TJ, Fox LS. A Sociocultural Stress and Coping Model for Mental Health Outcomes Among African American Caregivers in Southern California. J Gerontol Ser B. 2000 May 1;55(3):P142–50.

  23. Vassillière CT, Holahan CJ, Holahan CK, Race. Perceived discrimination, and emotion-focused coping. J Community Psychol. 2016 May;44(4):524–30.

  24. Yoshihama M. Battered Women’s Coping Strategies and Psychological Distress: Differences by Immigration Status. Am J Community Psychol. 2002 Jun 1;30(3):429–52.

  25. DeCoster V, Cummings S. Coping with type 2 diabetes: do race and gender matter? Soc Work Health Care. 2004;40(2):37–53.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Keyes KM, Barnes DM, Bates LM. Stress, coping, and depression: Testing a new hypothesis in a prospectively studied general population sample of U.S.-born Whites and Blacks. Soc Sci Med. 2011 Mar 1;72(5):650–9.

  27. Sternthal MJ, Williams DR, Musick MA, Buck AC. Depression, Anxiety, and Religious Life: A Search for Mediators. J Health Soc Behav. 2010 Sep 1;51(3):343–59.

  28. Blackmon SM, Coyle LD, Davenport S, Owens AC, Sparrow C. Linking racial-ethnic socialization to Culture and Race-Specific Coping among African American College Students. J Black Psychol. 2016 Dec;42(1):549–76.

  29. Culver JL, Arena PL, Antoni MH, Carver CS. Coping and distress among women under treatment for early stage breast cancer: comparing african americans, hispanics and non-hispanic whites. Psychooncology. 2002 Dec;11(6):495–504.

  30. Kiecolt KJ, Hughes M, Keith VM. Can a High Sense of Control and John Henryism Be Bad for Mental Health? Sociol Q. 2009 Oct 1;50(4):693–714.

  31. Haley WE, Gitlin LN, Wisniewski SR, Mahoney DF, Coon DW, Winter L, et al. Well-being, appraisal, and coping in african-american and caucasian dementia caregivers: findings from the REACH study. Aging Ment Health. 2004 Jul;8(4):316–29.

  32. Farley T, Galves A, Dickinson LM, de Jesus Diaz Perez M, Stress. Coping, and Health: a comparison of mexican immigrants, Mexican-Americans, and non-hispanic whites. J Immigr Health. 2005 Jul;7(3):213–20.

  33. Cutchin MP. The need for the “new health geography” in epidemiologic studies of environment and health. Health Place. 2007 Jan 1;13(3):725–42.

  34. Cutchin MP, Eschbach K, Mair CA, Ju H, Goodwin JS. The socio-spatial neighborhood estimation method: an approach to operationalizing the neighborhood concept. Health Place. 2011 Sep;17(1):1113–21.

  35. Peek MK, Cutchin MP, Salinas JJ, Sheffield KM, Eschbach K, Stowe RP, et al. Allostatic load among non-hispanic Whites, non-hispanic blacks, and people of mexican origin: Effects of Ethnicity, Nativity, and Acculturation. Am J Public Health. 2010 May;100(5):940–6.

  36. Hussaini M, Howell JL, Peek MK, Stowe RP, Zawadzki MJ. Psychosocial stressors predict lower cardiovascular disease risk among Mexican- American adults living in a high-risk community: Findings from the Texas City Stress and Health Study. PLoS One [Internet]. 2021 Oct [cited 2022 Sep 7];16(10 October). Available from:

  37. Cohen S. Williamson. Perceived stress in a probability sample of the US. In: Spacapan S, Oskamp S, editors. The Social psychology of Health. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications; 1988. pp. 31–67.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Carver CS. You want to measure Coping but your protocol’s too long: consider the brief COPE. Int J Behav Med. 1997 Jan;4(1):92.

  39. Turner RJ, Wheaton B, Lloyd DA. The epidemiology of social stress. Am Sociol Rev. 1995 Feb;60(1):104–25.

  40. Martinez ML, Black M, Starr RH. Factorial structure of the Perceived Neighborhood Scale (PNS): a test of longitudinal invariance. J Community Psychol. 2002 Jan;30(1):23–43.

  41. Cutchin MP, Martin KR, Owen SV, Goodwin JS. Concern About Petrochemical Health Risk Before and After a Refinery Explosion.Risk Anal Int J. 2008Jun;28(3):589–601.

  42. Sherbourne CD, Stewart AL. The MOS social support survey. Soc Sci Med. 1991 Jan;32(1):705–14.

  43. Hays RD, Morales LS. The RAND-36 measure of health-related quality of life. Ann Med -Hels-. 2001 Jan;33(1):350–7.

  44. Compas, et al. Coping models of stress and resilience. In: Harkness KL, Hayden EP, editors. The Oxford handbook of stress and Mental Health. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2018. pp. 585–600.

    Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was supported by Grant P50 CA10563 from the National Cancer Institute, which funded the UTMB Center for Population Health and Health Disparities as well as the Texas City Stress and Health Study.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christine A. Mair.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Mair, C.A., Peek, M.K., Slatcher, R.B. et al. Examining Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Coping and Stress Within an Environmental Riskscape. J Immigrant Minority Health 25, 1033–1042 (2023).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: