April 1, 2017

Promoting Optimal Native Outcomes (PONO) by Understanding Women’s Stress Experiences

May Okihiro, Lisa Duke, Deborah Goebert, Lauren Ampolos, Casandra Camacho, Natasha Shanahan, Earl Hishinuma, and J. Keawe Kaholokula

The Journal of Primary Prevention

A growing body of evidence links stress with mental illness and chronic disease. Existing scales of women’s stress fail to capture the daily stressors of low-income, rural women. We explored the psychosocial stressors of local women residing in a rural Hawaii community with a large Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population. We recruited women, aged 18–35 years, at a community health center. We convened four focus groups to elicit information about women’s stress. We identified key themes from the focus group data to generate questions that target concerns raised by participants. These were corroborated by additional focus groups. Thirty-six women participated in the study. Seven stressor themes emerged: intimate relationships—limited partner assistance, gender stereotype; family and home life—feeling like an outsider, lack of respect; childrearing—quality and affordable childcare, conflicting discipline styles; time for self—never-ending duties, being too tired to relax; neighborhood environment—safety concerns, not feeling part of the community; workplace—workload and transportation obstacles; and finances—making ends meet and arguments about money. Women in this study articulated a broad range of daily stressors. Sociocultural factors leading to feeling like an outsider within their own family, intercultural marriage conflicts, and perceptions of community discrimination are not included in other published scales. Our focus group investigations thus provided critical knowledge for developing a community-relevant scale. This is a prerequisite for developing and testing innovative intervention strategies designed to reduce stress in this population. We believe that reducing stress is necessary to mitigate the negative effects of stressors on physical and mental health among women in this rural community.

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