Stress and changing lifestyles in the Pacific: Physiological stress responses of Samoans in rural and urban settings

Jay D. Pearson, Gary D. James, Daniel E. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The lifestyles and social environments of Pacific Islanders have changed profoundly as a result of local development and migration to urban, cosmopolitan centers. These changes have often been accompanied by an increase in chronic diseases, alcoholism, and suicide. As a result, the health effects of psychological and physiological stress have become an increasing concern in Pacific Island nations and in countries with significant Pacific migrant communities. Several studies in the Samoan Studies Project have examined catecholamine excretion rates in order to understand how the behavioral, psychological, and environmental changes of modernization affect the physiological stress responses of young Samoan adults. The results of studies in rural and urban Western Samoa, American Samoa, and Honolulu, Hawaii show that several complex factors associated with urban, more cosmopolitan lifestyles tend to increase stress hormone levels. Specifically, lifestyle differences in physical activity, diet, and social interaction have significant independent and interactive contributions. These behavioral factors can lead to a high degree of day‐to‐day variability in catecholamine excretion. The implications of these findings for future research designs are discussed. However, the data suggest that it is a complex interaction of lifestyle factors, not any specific single factor, that determines the physiological stress responses of Samoans in different environments. © 1993 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-60
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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