Causes of Stress

  • Work- Johnsson
  • Hassles and Life events- Holmes & Rahe
  • Lack of control- Geer & Miesel 

(same studies for measuring stress)

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Aim: To measure the psychological and physiological stress responses in two categories of employees


  • Quasi experiment 
  • 24 workers in swedish sawmill; 14 classified as high streess risk and 10 control group of maintenance workers 
  • Responsible for their own wages and worked in soical isolation, repititive, constrained but also complex 
  • Gave daily urine samples, body temperature checked, self report on mood and caffeince and nicotine consumption

Results: High risk group had adrenaline 2x much as base line in urine sample and increased during day; Control group has 1.5x baseline in morning and declined during day

Conclusion: Repetitive, machine paced work which demanded more attention to detail and highly mechanised contributed to higher stress levels in high risk group

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Holmes and Rahe

Aim: Construct an instrument for measuring stress; Stress defined as amount an individual has had to deal with during a particular period of time; Stress related to both physiological and psychological ilnesses 

Proceudre: Medical records of 5,000 patients examined; List of 43 life events; Judges then had to give a number to each of the life events, indicating how much readjustment they involve relative to marriage; Stress measured by LCU's; Mean values associated with the events the person ahs experienced during that time

Conclusion: Stress measured objectively as an LCU score and stress is the cause of some ilnesses 

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Geer & Maisel

Aim: To see if percieved control or actual control can reduce reactions to aversive stimuli 

Method: 60 psychology undergraduates shown images of dead car carsh victims; Stress levels measured using galvanic skin repsonse; Basline GSR taken when relaxed

  • Group 1 given actual control over length of exposure as they had a button to terminate each picture with a tone
  • Group 2 were warned pictures were 60 seconds apart and proceeded by a tone
  • Group 3 just told they will see a picture from time to time


  • Group 1 experienced lowest stress response as measured by GSR 
  • Group 2 showed most stress in reposne to the tone

Conclusion: Participants showed less GSR reactions, indicating less stress, whent they have control over the length of time they loooked at the disturbing pictures. Likely that being able to terminate aversive stimuli reduces stressful stimuli 

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Managing Stress

  • Congitive- Michenbaum
  • Behavioural- Biofeedback
  • Social- Waxler-Morrison
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Aim: Compare effectiveness of SIT with systematic desensitisation and a control group on a waiting list for reducing stress

Procedure: 21 students aged 17-25; Advertisement for those who suffered anxiety attack; Completed baseline anxiety questionaire and IQ test; Matched pairs design; Random allocation to 3 conditions:

  • SIT (8 therapy sessions)
  • Systematic desensitsation (8 therapy sessions)
  • Control (Told on waiting list)

Findings: Both therapy groups showed a reduction in anxiety levels compared to control group but SIT showed largest decrease

Conclusions: SIT was more effective at reducing exam anxiety because it contained a cognitive component; SIT Works because stress is caused by our perception of being unable to cope 

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Biofeedback is the method by which an indivdual learns to exert voluntary control over involuntary (autonomic) behaviours by being made aware of what is happening in the ANS

Four Principles:

  1. Feedback- Attatched to various machines which provide inromation about various ANS acitivities
  2. Relaxation- Patient is taught techniques of relaxation in order to reduce acitivty of the sympathetic nervous system 
  3. Succesful behaviours are repated because thery are rewarding
  4. Patient needs to transfer skills learned to the real world 

Budzynski: Conducted research into effectivness for treating tension headaches; 18 participants into 3 groups of 6; Group A = Biofeedback session; Group B = Relaxation techniques; Group C = Control; Group A reported significant decrease in headaches showing biofeedback can be effective

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Aim: Look at how a womans social relationships influence her response to breast cancer survival 

Procedure: Prospective study; 133 women under age of 55; Vancouver canada; Breast cancer diagnosis; Completed self administred quesytionaire on demographic details and exisiting social networks; 18 interviewed 

Findings: Martial status; Support from friends; Contact with friends; Social network and employment 

Conclusions: More social networks and social support a woman has the higher her chances of survival. Assumes that sociasl support reduces stress, however, the main factor influencing survivial is the state of the cancer at the time of the diagnosis. Early detection is key to survivial. 

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