Stress, Health, and Physiological Functioning in the Awajun of the Peruvian Amazon

Project: Research project

Project Details


Road construction, colonization programs, and deforestation have precipitated rapid cultural and economic transitions in many regions of the Amazon rainforest. A major issue of scholarly and public interest is whether these changes are influencing the quality of life of people living in indigenous communities within these areas. The Shuar are an Amerindian group living in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Prior research with the Shuar revealed that many men and women are reporting high rates of chronic headaches, body pain, dizziness, burning sensations, and fatigue. This constellation of symptoms is consistent with descriptions of somatic symptoms, defined as recurrent bodily complaints among persons with substantial psychological distress. Statistical analyses revealed that measures of physiological stress, including cardiovascular and immune function, were elevated in Shuar individuals reporing multiple somatic symptoms. To build on these preliminary findings, this dissertation project will address three questions: Are the somatic symptoms reported by the Shuar associated with broader social and economic changes tied to the process of globalization? Do Shuar individuals reporting multiple somatic symptoms also report higher levels of psychological stress, depression, and anxiety? Do Shuar individuals associate the experience of somatic symptoms with stressful life circumstances and events, in their own words? This project will investigate these questions using a critical biocultural approach that combines theory and methods from both medical and biocultural anthropology.
Effective start/end date2/1/131/31/14


  • Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (Agmt 02/06/2013 - Check #23986)


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.