Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Dr. Martin Cherniack & Dr. Tania Huedo-Medina

Field of Study

Health Promotion


Master of Science

Open Access

Open Access


Background: Correctional employees present a poor physical and mental health profile including high rates of overweight/obesity, poor health behaviors (diet, exercise, and sleep quality), high stress levels, and poor psychological health (e.g. high rates of depression, suicide, and divorce). Worse, correctional employees deny their stress and negative emotions as their occupational culture discourages expressing negative characteristics that would make one appear weak and deters seeking psychiatric help. Correctional employees are in need of effective health promotion efforts that address determinants of employee health with an all-inclusive view (mental/emotional/behavioral). Purpose: The purpose of this study was to assess if stress and/or psychological health (depression and emotions) serve as predictors of health behaviors and bodyweight among correctional employees. The proposed theoretical Psychological Health, Behavior, Bodyweight (PBBW) model was tested for mediating relationship between psychological health and bodyweight via health behaviors. Furthermore, the study sought to assess underreporting of stress and negative emotions, which may provide evidence of emotional detachment and/or concealing of negatively stigmatized characteristics. Methods: This was a cross sectional study of correctional employee (n=317) health utilizing research staff conducted physical assessments (height, weight, and body mass index) and self-reported surveys (stress, psychological health, and health behaviors). Structural equation modeling was used to create latent variables from self-reported survey items to test the mediating relationships among variables of interest. In testing for underreporting, non-normality of responses to stress and emotions were assessed via visual assessment of histograms and tests of skewness and kurtosis. Results: The proposed Psychological Health, Behavior, Bodyweight (PBBW) model was supported suggesting that psychological health and stress may affect bodyweight via health behaviors. In addition, results suggest correctional employees underreport characteristics such as stress and negatively worded emotions that may be stigmatized. Conclusions: Correctional employees are suffering from stress and negative emotions, which appear to adversely affect health behaviors and bodyweight. Correctional culture may inhibit concession of weakness and pursuit of emotional health. Interventions should address stress and psychological health in efforts to promote healthy behaviors and ultimately healthy bodyweight.

Major Advisor

Dr. Pouran Faghri