Doctoral Dissertation Research: Culture Change, Psychosocial Stress and Immune Function Among Female Chinese University Students
A. Steegmann Principal Investigator
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Cultural, political and economic changes in the People's Republic of China (PRC) have divided the rural and urban communities. Populations moving between these communities experience "culture change"; and as a <br/>consequence suffer varying degrees of psychosocial stress. University students are an ideal population in which to study this process. They span a range of backgrounds and come together to live in a new, global, urban environment: the university. Students of rural upbringing risk higher stress levels since they confront new and discordant behaviors, ideas and knowledge. In addition they experience systemic and interpersonal discrimination, both subtle and overt. The higher suicide rate among rural women underlines the seriousness of behavioral pressures. To test rural/urban differences in stress levels, 220 female students will be recruited. Each student will complete two interviews, a questionnaire, several blood pressure readings and provide a blood sample. The research design treats stress (blood pressure and Epstein-Barr Virus antibodies) as the dependent variable. Stress is increased or decreased by several independent variables.<br/><br/>This project connects ethnographic data with biological markers of stress. It will provide a greater understanding of the interaction between multiple sources of stress in a high-risk, natural population <br/>and further contribute to the understanding of how social pressure and changes impact health in a non-Western context. This project builds on previous work of human biologists, incorporating methods and theory in an innovative research design. <br/><br/>This study introduces advanced research methods and theory to a region relatively new to human biology. It will provide data to health officials and university staff on the challenges and the health consequences of negotiating those challenges encountered by their youth. For the discipline of human biology, it further tests the EBV method as a marker of chronic stress in a natural population.