Types of stress

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Major life events and stress

A famous study by Holmes and Rahe (1967) attempted to measure types of stress in relation to 43 common life events involving change of some kind. However, the scale has been criticised for not being able to predict physical or psychological health following stressful life events. One reason for this is that the scale makes the assumption that everyone responds to stressors to the same extent and does not take into consideration individual differences in subjective experience of stress. Subsequent research (e.g. Lazarus and Folkman, 1984) has taken into account subjective experience and how an individual’s appraisal of a stressor will determine ability to cope.
‘Daily hassles’

Researchers (e.g. DeLongis et al, 1982) have also found that ‘daily hassles’ can be extremely stressful and that major life events (both positive and negative) often produce a set of new ‘hassles’ over and above the main stressor.
The family life cycle and stress

Family relationships are influenced by external stressors which are in turn interpreted through family beliefs, attitudes and traditional ways the family copes with problems. Transitional stages, such as the birth of a baby, are recognised as potentially stressful and requiring major adjustment (Carter and McGoldgrick, 1980).
Social and cultural sources of stress

• Poor working conditions, poor housing conditions etc
• Moving to a new country, working abroad etc
Conflicts/decision making and stress

Certain types of decisions may cause considerable stress.
Type of Decision Predicted outcome Level of stress

Approach-approach situations – Either way there is a good outcome (Least stressful)
Avoidance- avoidance situations – Either way outcome is unpleasant (Stressful)
Approach- avoidance situations – The outcome is both pleasant and unpleasant. Often results in feeling stuck. (Highly stressful)
Occupational stress

Every day many as 270,000 people in the UK take time off work due to stress
(Earnshaw and Cooper, 2001). Furthermore, increasing numbers of employees are claiming
damages from their employers for stress-related illnesses. In 2001 a teacher was awarded over
£250,000 for severe work-related stress. A study commissioned by the International Stress
Management Association UK and Sun Alliance in 2001 found that a number of factors
contributed to stress. These include:

Long hours (25% of respondents working more than 5 days a week and 33% working over 48
hours a week).
Too much work (75% of respondents)
Deadline pressure (62% of respondents)
Unsupportive environment (40% of respondents)
Difficulties in maintaining a satisfactory work/life balance (40% of respondents).

Findings of this study show that work-related stress affected people in a variety of ways. These

Damage to health
Poor job satisfaction
Lower productivity
Deterioration in social life
Problems with relationships

The Health and Safety Executive have published guidelines for employers and recommend that
they take work-force stress seriously
Student stress

Many students are turning to the internet for help rather than mental health professionals and most University websites include a web page advising students on how to cope with stress. Sociological factors, such as student debt and poverty can exacerbate stress related to academic pressures. In 2003
a working party was set up by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in response to concerns about student
stress and mental health.
There are a number of studies examining immunological changes in students at examination
times. Kiecolt-Glaser and Glaser (1993), for example, studying examination stress in medical
students, consistently found a down regulation of immune functioning, reflecting a susceptibility
to infection following examination periods that is frequently experienced by students.
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