Goal: To encourage Center investigators to explore the role of trauma and major life stressors on the health of underserved urban residents, and to foster research both to prevent these events and cushion residents against their effects. Urban residents with low incomes and of ethnic minority background are highly likely to experience significant chronic exposure to major life stressors and to traumatic stress. Although research on health disparities has at times focused on major life stress, there has been relatively little focus on traumatic stress, and again, low income and ethnic minority populations are much more likely than higher income and majority population members to be exposed to traumatic stressors. Key to the association with health, both major life stressors and traumatic stressors are likely to increase lifetime depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms. Further, major life and traumatic stressors may both indirectly affect physical health through their influence on behaviors, including drug and alcohol use, smoking, sleep disturbance, avoidance of exercise (for legitimate fear of places to exercise due to dangerous neighborhoods), as well as directly affect physical health through their influence on down regulation of the immune system and inflammatory processes. Both down regulation of.the immune system and inflammatory processes have been linked with cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and blood pressure. These processes have only begun to be studied and have seldom been study in applied health contexts. Critically, they have not to our knowledge been studied uniformly across several health interventions in order to explore their impact. For the purposes of this grant it is helpful to define our key terms around stress: Major life stressors are objective events that threaten or produce profound negative adaptational consequences in most individuals or that threaten or produce profound losses of objects, situations or persons that are highly valued by most individuals.^^ These include, but are not limited to, loss of employment, loss of a loved one, major health problems, divorce or separation from a loved one, and severe economic problems. Traumatic stressors are shocking and emotionally overwhelming events that are typically experienced with intense fear, horror, numbness, or helplessness. These events usually involve actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual or other physical assault. They can be one-time occurrences, such as a natural disaster, rape, violent assault, or a motor vehicle accident, or be ongoing and chronic, such as the case of domestic violence or combat exposure. Distress is the outcome of the stress process. It may include both psychological markers such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic symptoms or biological markers such as immune compromise or inflammatory processes. Stress is the internal biological and psychological process that occurs as a consequence of external or internal stressors and people's ability to adapt to these stressors. As an internal process it is usually not directly observable, but is inferred by conditions of stressors on one hand and distress on the other hand.We will therefore not measure stress per se in our studies, but rather infer it from the exposure to major and traumatic stressors, on one hand, and the reporting of depression, anxiety, and PTS symptoms, on the other hand.

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National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Specialized Center (P50)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZCA1-SRLB-3)
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Rush University Medical Center
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