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Research That Has Suggested A Link Between Stress And Ill Health

2087 words - 9 pages

Research that has suggested a link between stress and ill health.

Looking at the link between stress and illness, there have been many studies done to show the direct effect stress has in relation to illness, the main three pathways looked at are the direct effect, stress interacting with pre-existing vulnerabilities and how stress leads to behavioural changes that are not beneficial to one’s health. However it is hard for researchers to establish a definite cause and effect relationship between stress and specific physical symptoms or illnesses. Not only do people's minds and bodies react differently to stress, but there also are other factors at work when someone falls ill. Most ...view middle of the document...

All other factors such as age, sex, weight, diet exercise or sleep had no effect on the likelihood of the participants catching a cold. The second pathway in the link between stress and illness is Vulnerability, which can make people more likely to suffer ill heath when they are stressed and can be both physical and psychological. The effect of physical vulnerabilities can be demonstrated by the fact that stress has no or little effect on blood pressures except in cases where the person already has high blood pressure, in these individuals the stress can cause hypertension. With psychosocial vulnerabilities the effect stress has affects groups such as the poor, the very young, the elderly and homeless as they are affected by environmental stressors such as noise and overcrowding which, although unpleasant have no harmful effects on the health of most of us. The final pathway as a result of the direct effect and vulnerability is behavioural changes, which suggests that when people are under stress they tend to do things that are likely to increase their chances of falling ill or getting injured. As a result of being stressed we tend to neglect our diet, increase our intake of alcohol, smoke more or drink more coffee as well as being less active by not exercising.

Research done by Holmes and Rahe (1967) with the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) to measure the extent of adjustment required by certain situations in life events such as moving home, going on holiday or death of a loved one showed that those who scored above a certain level on the SRRS often developed a physical illness within a year. In a study by Kielcot-Glaser et al. (1995) compared the wound healing rate of a group of high stress women caring for relatives with Alzheimer’s disease and a stress free matched group. They noticed that in the group of high stress women, complete wound healing took nine days longer than the stress free group showing that stress impairs the body’s ability to heal itself when stressed and more importantly had potential consequences for those people who are stressed and needing to undergo major surgery and then recover from it.
Another researcher who found a supportive link between stress and illness was Russek (1962), who’s research found a link between that of work-related stress and heart disease. He tested a group of medical professionals and labelled them as high-stress or low-stress according to their role, with General Practioner’s having high levels of stress and Dermatologists having low stress. The study showed General Practioner’s had the greatest rate of heart disease (11.9%) where as dermatologists had the least heart disease (3.2%). This showed that there is a link between heart disease and stress within a job. However the dermatologists may have a higher stress job than predicted, also professional lives may not be the only cause of stress e.g. personal lives or personal issues may also have affect stress levels. 
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