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O.C.R A2 Psychology.
Health and Clinical Psychology.
Stress. The Causes of Stress.
Stress is one of the most commonly cited problems in western society. Psychologists are interested
in the causes of stress. This is because they want to be able to manage the stress that we face in
everyday life. Psychologists realise that almost any area of our lives could cause stress, including
work, the hassles we face and if we feel we lack control of a situation.
Johansson did some research regarding work as a cause of stress.
Johansson measured stress psychologically and physiologically. He used self-reports of mood and
alertness, and caffeine and nicotine consumption. The scale included words such as irritation and
efficiency. He also measured adrenaline in urine 5 times a day, and body temperature at the time of
This was a quasi-experiment. The participants usually worked in the Swedish sawmill. 14 were part of
the high risk group. They were governed by a set pace and had a complex job. 10 were part of the
low risk group. They had relatively easy jobs such as cleaners. The high risk group had the highest
level of adrenaline which increased throughout the day. The adrenaline is the urine of the control
group declined throughout the day. The high risk group felt more rushed and irritable than the control
group. They rated their well-being as lower than the control group. Repetitive and complex work
contributed to higher stress levels.
Studying stress may cause stress, so the ethics of such an investigation are questionable. The validity
of measuring any health behaviour is questionable. Health is generally considered as a private part of
life, and so using techniques such as self-reports may render results invalid due to social desirability.
Objective and scientific information obtained from quantitative data may also be reductionist. Health
is a private and often emotional behaviour, so numerical data may only give a partial view of the true
picture of health. It is also important that behaviour is not considered as the result of one action.
Human behaviour is complex. By looking for one singular cause of stress it could be considered that
Johansson is taking a reductionist approach.
Stress itself is difficult to investigate. Different people consider different things as stressful.
Individual differences make such investigations subjective rather than objective.
Some people may thrive on high-powered jobs. This is not the case for everyone. As the sample was
so small it is difficult to generalise Johansson's findings. This is because the sample was not
representative of the general population.
The findings may also be subject to bias. In Western and capitalist countries, it is seen as important to
have a well-paid and powerful job. Due to this emphasis, it may be that work stress is a cultural
stressor rather than a general stressor. Cultural norms and expectations may influence how stressful
events can be.