Investigating the effects of rurality on stress, subjective well-being, and weight-related outcomes




Gold, Joshua M.
Drewnowski, Adam
Andersen, M. Robyn
Rose, Chelsea
Buszkiewicz, James
Mou, Jin
Ko, Linda K.

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Purpose: Rates of obesity are significantly higher for those living in a rural versus urban setting. High levels of stress and low levels of subjective well-being (SWB) have been linked to poor weight-related behaviors and outcomes, but it is unclear if these relationships differ as a function of rurality. This study investigated the extent to which living in a rural versus urban county ("rurality") moderated associations between stress / subjective wellbeing (predictors) and diet quality, dietary intake of added sugars, physical activity, and BMI (outcomes).

Methods: Participants were recruited from urban (n = 355) and rural (n = 347) counties in Washington State and self-reported psychological, demographic, and food frequency questionnaires while physical activity behavior was measured objectively.

Findings: After controlling for relevant covariates, levels of stress were positively associated with added sugar intake for those living in the urban county while this relationship was non-significant for those residing in the rural county. Similarly, SWB was negatively associated with added sugar intake, but only for urban residents. County of residence was also found to moderate the relationship between SWB and BMI. Higher SWB was inversely associated with BMI for those living in the urban county while no relationship was observed for rural county residents.

Conclusions: These findings support the hypothesis that the relationships between stress / SWB and weight function differentially based on the rurality of the residing county. This work adds to the growing body of literature highlighting the role stress and SWB play in the rural obesity disparity.



Stress, Subjective well-being, Obesity, Urban, Rural, Added sugar


This is the published version of an article that is available at Recommended citation: Gold, J. M., Drewnowski, A., Andersen, M. R., Rose, C., Buszkiewicz, J., Mou, J., & Ko, L. K. (2023). Investigating the effects of rurality on stress, subjective well-being, and weight-related outcomes. Wellbeing, Space and Society, 5, 100171. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author’s permission.