Stress in 21st Century

Topics: Psychology, Occupational health psychology, Stress Pages: 7 (2622 words) Published: October 20, 2009
This essay will attempt to show a positive correlation between stress and behaviour. Stress may well be of epidemic proportions in the 21st century, however, research conducted over the latter part of the 20th century indicates that at least the beginnings of a stress epidemic was evident in those later years. An accepted definition of stress is “any circumstances that threaten or are perceived to threaten one’s wellbeing and thereby tax one’s coping abilities”. (Weiten, Lloyd, Dunn & Hammer, 2009)’. Research into stress epidemiology started in 1936 with the work of Hans Selye, one of the pioneers of stress being accepted as a psychological issue, rather than a physical or psychosomatic one. Other more recent research has highlighted the effects of everyday stressors on our physical and mental health (Seta, Seta & McElroy, 2002). Others, e.g. Lazarus and Cohen (1977) have investigated the detrimental effects of environmental stress on human behaviour. Stress is a term which has been used by researchers to describe a number of different conditions and means different things to different branches of medicine. There are however, variables which are commonly regarded as being components of what is called ‘stress’ in the pyschological and psychosocial sense of the word. They include anxiety, depression, panic disorder, hostility; Type A behaviour, acute and chronic life events, social isolation, environmental issues, workplace issues and lack of social support. (Bunker, S. Colquhoun. D., Esler, M.D., Hickie, I.B., Hunt, D., Jelinek V.M., Oldenburg B.F. Peach, H.G., Ruth, D., Tennant, C.C. and Tonkin, A.M. 2003). Type A behaviour pattern refers to a number of personality trait characteristics, including rushed, ambitious and competitive behaviour, impatience, hostility, and intolerance. (Friedman 1974). Research into stress epidemiology was pioneered in 1936 by Dr Hans Selye. This research was followed by another publication in 1950 (Selye 1950). At this time stress was starting to be recognised as a psychological condition, not a physical one nor a psychosomatic illness but it was nowhere near as prevalent as it is in the 21st century. Selye’s theory was that in addition to the sympathetic nervous system, other bodily functions, e.g. immune system, reproduction and digestive systems are impaired by stress. These systems continue to have impaired function whilstever the source of stress is impacting on the person, resulting in an inability to fully recover their functions if stress is prolonged or recovering in due course when the stress is short-term. If the immune system is suppressed for any great length of time, then a person is more likely to become recurrently ill. According to Selye, this is one reason why some people are more prone to illness than others. (See Appendix 1). Selye’s theory has its detractors, though. One example of this is Serge Doublet (2001) who states, inter alia, in a personal communication “The claim of a suppressed immune system implies that the system is shut off. This is far than being supported by research. A temporary small reduction in lymphocytes or T cells does not make that much difference. Most of the studies on the effects of stress are correlation studies where the ‘stressor’ is assumed and the effect is also assumed. No cause and effect relationship has even been established.” In the latter part of the 20th century it became evident that there was an increase in everyday stressors occurring. Minor routine irritations, such as losing the car keys, missing the train or bus, being financially unable to cope, family arguments or overcrowded conditions at work or home can all be the cause of a significant decline in a person’s mental or physical health (Kanner,Coyne, Schaefer & Lazarus, 1981). Other studies have shown that everyday stressors can have a cumulative effect on physical and mental health (Seta et al 2002; Seta, J.J. Seta, C.E., Wang, M.A. 1991). (See Appendix 2) It would...

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