Stress and Health

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Stress and Health


Our well-being, as well as health, is, to a great extent affected by stressors that exist in our bodies. The responses to stress vary from one individual to another. There is, however, less of a health burden on younger individuals than on older people. The individual biological vulnerability is what determines the effect of psychological stress and physical health. Changes occur in our daily lives; whether we can perceive them or not, it is stress that enables us to adapt and cope with the changes that occur in our surroundings. (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984). It is, therefore, important to understand the psychology of stress to evaluate what is appropriate for survival and what is detrimental to the health of a person. Understanding psychological stress is important in generating interventions to enable people to cope and to reduce its impact on the health of an individual.



Stress has once been defined as the factors that seriously threaten the homeostasis of an individual (Cannon 1929). The body homeostasis is considered to be vital as it is through it that life is maintained throughout the changing external environment.  When homeostasis is disrupted, an individual’s health is put at risk. Stress is not tangible, and it is a type of psychological pain, Small amounts of these pain are deemed to be essential for survival, it is stress that triggers the fight or flight mode through the production of adrenaline. Pressure can also help in improving one’s performance at a particular task. It is important to determine the various levels of stress that an individual can be exposed to and the outcome that such exposure has on the health of the person. It is also important to understand the link between stress and health since this can affect not only the personal aspect of life but also the socioeconomic and sociopolitical aspects.

This paper will consider the nature of stress, how the body perceives stress, the personal, socioeconomic, and sociopolitical effects of stress, the physical and psychological health symptoms that result from stress, and the remedies and coping mechanisms for deleterious stress.

This paper aims to draw attention to the influence of stress on our daily life, the factors that cause stress, and to connect the psychological experience to the physical changes that may occur in our bodies. In the end, the connection between human health and stress will be made clear.

The relationship between stress and health is an essential topic as it essential to determine the degree at which the non-physical factors as bacteria, viruses, and genes have on human health both in the short and long term.

There are various variations of stress: Good stress, or eustress that is responsible for the motivation that one gets to perform tasks and bad stress or distress that may lead to ill health. (Selye 1974).

STUDY 1. Psychological stress, coping, and symptoms of disordered eating in a community sample of young Australian women

The study was aimed at determining the relationship between psychological stress, the coping mechanisms deployed, and the tendency to develop an eating disorder. The study was conducted over six months on four hundred and fifteen female adults. The behavior was monitored as well as their eating patterns. At the end of the study, there was found to be some relationship between the exposure of stress factors and the development of eating disorders. A definitive conclusion of this relationship could not be made as the results were not similar across the board. (Alice-Beatrice Prefit, Diana Mirela Cândea, and Aurora Szentagotai-Tătar, Emotion regulation across eating pathology: A meta-analysis, Appetite, 10.1016/j.appet.2019.104438, (104438), (2019).)

STUDY 2: Relationships Between Perceived Stress and Health Behaviours in a Sample of Working Adults.

This was a study conducted among working adults from different cites totaling to twelve thousand one hundred and ten individuals. The study was meant to determine the relationship between the habits developed by working individuals as pertains to their fat intake, smoking habits, and alcohol intake. Analyses were made based on gender. The result of the study was that there was a higher intake of fats, alcohol, and cigarettes among individuals who were exposed to high levels of stress. The conclusion was that certain health habits and decisions were moderated by the negative stress they were exposed to. (Ng, D. M., & Jeffery, R. W. (2003). Relationships Between Perceived Stress and Health Behaviors in a Sample of Working Adults. Health Psychology, 22(6), 638–642.

STUDY 3. Psychological Stress and Disease Activity in Ulcerative Colitis: A Multidimensional Cross-Sectional Study.

The objective of the study was to establish a clear link between exposure to stress and the disease development of ulcerative colitis.  Previously, some relation had been made by gastroenterologists between the development and advancement of ulcerative colitis and the exposure to extreme psychological stress.

For this studies, the physicians chose the eligible candidates from their patients, a total of seventy-nine, took their history, and a psychologist collected their demographic data. Comparisons were performed for demographic, disease, and psychological characteristics of the asymptomatic group and those with ulcerative colitis. The result of the study showed that there was a significant correlation between the development of the disease and major life events. The development of the organic disease from this study was concluded to be an outlet of psychological stress that an individual may suffer.

STUDY 4. Blood Pressure Reactivity to Psychological Stress and Coronary Calcification in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study.

The study was conducted between 1987 and 1988 among two thousand eight hundred and sixteen women aged between twenty and thirty-five years, both blacks and Caucasians who were not on any hypertension medication. Initially, the subject was exposed to stressful conditions, while their blood pressures were being monitored. A follow up of the subjects was made for thirteen years taking note of their physical health status, their lifestyle, and psychological well-being. The conclusion was that most of those who had an initial spike in the blood pressure during the initial test in 1987, had the development of coronary calcification over the years. The conclusion was that individuals who are more vulnerable to stress in certain conditions might develop some physical disease in the long term. ( Karen A.MatthewsSha ZhuDiane C. Tucker, and Mary A. Whooley. 2006; 47:391–395.)

STUDY 5: Self-perceived psychological stress and ischemic stroke: a case-control study

This was a study conducted by one thousand two hundred individuals. Six hundred of these were patients with ischemic stroke, whereas the other six hundred were matched asymptomatic controls.  The two groups were taken through psychological exams.  The result of the exercise showed that there was a correlation between self-perceived psychological stress and the occurrence of ischaemic stroke. The risk of ischaemic stroke as a result of psychological stress was not, however, determined. ( Jood, K., Redfors, P., Rosengren, A. et al. Self-perceived psychological stress and ischemic stroke: a case-control study. BMC Med 7, 53 (2009) doi:10.1186/1741-7015-7-53.)


From the studies, there is some relationship between the psychological stresses that the subjects are under and their physical health. Bad stress, or distress, is seen to cause a measure of deterioration in the physical health of the individuals

There is, however, no clear conclusion on whether psychological stress is a risk factor for the development of various diseases.

The conclusions from the studies were, however, made based on individual biases as the subjects were of specific demographic groups and could not clearly represent the real picture for the whole population.

The studies were conducted on different demographic groups. The different age factors, gender, race, and locations of the subjects, definitely lead to the emergence of different conclusions.

There was also a time disparity in the studies. Others conducted in the eighties and nineties and the two thousand. During this periods, the lifestyles of the individuals were subjected to different kinds of stresses based on the social, economic, and political status of the societies they were in at the time.

Some of the studies were individuals who were already suffering a measure of physical ailments. The causes of these could not be linked to the psychological stresses the subjects underwent during the period of the study.



The studies of the relationship of stress and hypertension and that of ulcerative colitis relate to the concept of adrenaline production in the body as a stress hormone, as a stress response system. Long term activation of this system can lead to a disruption of the body processes increasing the risk of development of diseases, one of them being hypertension.

In chronic illnesses, the level of stress for the individuals is almost

constantly high, and these individuals have to face an inevitable reality every single day with the fear of deteriorating health, leading to imminent death.  This level of constant high-stress levels reduces their quality of life, as it contributes more to their ill-health.

Stress cannot always be linked to the negative effects that occur in the human body. Stress can be beneficial to an individual’s daily life. It is stress that provides the drive needed to perform tasks.  Exposure to measures of stress cannot be conclusively linked to the development of physical diseases.

From the studies, it is correct to conclude that psychological stress plays a role in the physical health of an individual. Health habits can be acquired as a result of the stress that one is going through. Eustress is, however, important for individuals to cope with the changes that occur in the day to day lives.


In society today, there is a high prevalence of non-communicable diseases. These are mainly due to lifestyle choices, genetic factors, and exposure to certain risk factors. From the studies that have been conducted, further research can be done to determine clearly if stress is a risk factor that is associated with non-communicable diseases. If it is identified as such, then the necessary preventive measures to delay and reduce the development of such diseases. (Med Sci Monit Basic Res. 2018; 24: 93–95. Published online 2018 Jun 15. doi: 10.12659/MSMBR.911473.)

The study conducted on adult workers at their workplaces can be used as a base to improve the workplace environment. There are more hours today spent at the workplace by adult individuals. There is a lot of pressure to meet socioeconomic standards and needs.  The workplace should, therefore, be a place conducive enough for one to fulfill their work and not a place that adds to their stresses, affecting their health too. (Andrew Noblet, Anthony D. LA Montagne, The role of workplace health promotion in addressing job stress, Health Promotion International, Volume 21, Issue 4, December 2006, Pages 346–353,


The studies were not clear on the role the stress played in the development of the disease or the health habit. In the case of ischaemic stroke study, it was determined that the patients had high-stress levels. The stress was not, however, determined to be the cause of the disease or as a result of the illness.

The studies did not also show the result of exposure to limited amounts of stress. The focus was on the negative stress and its effect. There is a need also to show the impact of eustress on the health before the distress kicks in. It is important to balance the stress levels in the body, and these findings would be valuable.


The focus groups in the studies were from similar demographic groups. The results were, therefore, applicable to these specific groups and cannot be accurately applied to everyone as the stress levels are not equal for everyone. The study on hypertension was used to women of a certain age; hence, the conclusions made could only apply to them.

The studies did not indicate the levels of stress that the patients were under and its effect. This would help to determine the levels of stress that are harmful to human health. It has been determined that some degree of stress is good; hence, defining the threshold would help make medical advancements.

Future studies should be geared towards determining stress as a risk factor in the development and disease processes of physical illnesses.

The studies should also focus on all the demographic groups. All races, age groups, genders, and social classes should be represented. This would enable accurate results being obtained and would be beneficial for all.



Alice-Beatrice Prefit, Diana Mirela Cândea, and Aurora Szentagotai-Tătar, Emotion regulation across eating pathology: A meta-analysis, Appetite, 10.1016/j.appet.2019.104438, (104438), (2019).

Andrew Noblet, Anthony D. LA Montagne, The role of workplace health promotion in addressing job stress, Health Promotion International, Volume 21, Issue 4, December 2006, Pages 346–353,

Folkman, S., 2013. Stress: appraisal and coping. In Encyclopedia of behavioral medicine (pp. 1913–1915). Springer New York.

Hemingway H, Marmot M: Psychosocial factors in the etiology and prognosis of coronary heart disease: a systemic review of prospective cohort studies. BMJ. 1999, 318: 1460-1467.

Jood, K., Redfors, P., Rosengren, A. et al. Self-perceived psychological stress and ischemic stroke: a case-control study. BMC Med 7, 53 (2009) doi:10.1186/1741-7015-7-53.

Karen A.MatthewsSha ZhuDiane C. Tucker, and Mary A. Whooley. 2006; 47:391–395.

Kobasa, S. C. (1979). Stressful life events, personality, and health: An inquiry into hardiness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(1), 1–11.

Med Sci Monit Basic Res. 2018; 24: 93–95. Published online 2018 Jun 15. doi: 10.12659/MSMBR.911473.

Selye, Hans (1975). “Implications of Stress Concept.” New York State Journal of Medicine75: 2139–2145.