Physiological stress and culture change in a group of Filipino-Americans: a preliminary investigation

Author: Brown, Daniel

Source: Annals of Human Biology, Volume 9, Number 6, Number 6/November/December 1982 , pp. 553-563(11)

Publisher: Informa Healthcare

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This preliminary survey evaluates the utility of physiological measures of general stress in anthropological fieldwork. The survey was conducted in a community of Filipino-Americans whose residents share similar housing conditions and low income levels but vary in ethnicity, migration status and degree of contact with Hawaii's urban culture. General stress levels are evaluated both by a subjective stress measure—the Cornell Medical Index (CMI)—and by physiological measures—twenty-four-hour excretion rates of norepinephrine, epinephrine and VMA. In addition, sociocultural data have been collected, and a culture contact index has been constructed. Preliminary results indicate that immigrants who have either low or high levels of contact with Honolulu's urban culture have lower stress levels, as measured by catecholamine excretion, than individuals with intermediate levels of contact. These differences may be due to the presence of two strategies of urban adaptation, one emphasizing isolation from the urban culture and the other emphasizing just the reverse. Those people who do not successfully utilize one of these strategies are likely to have high stress levels. Additionally, significant ethnic differences in both CMI scores and degree of culture contact are noted, but there are no ethnic differences in catecholamine excretion. This is tentative evidence for the superiority of physiological measures over subjective reports of stress in a multiethnic setting.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Anthropology, University of Hawaii, Hilo, Hawaii, 96720

Publication date: November 1, 1982

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