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The body's response to stress

There are two types of stress: acute and chronic. Acute stress is short term and chronic is long term and your body reacts differently to both.


The ANS is aroused by acute stress. The SNS is a branch of the ANS and when under stress it uses noradrenaline as a neurotransmitter to activate/alert organs within the body. At the same time the SAM uses adrenaline to achieve the same thing. When this happens your body is ready for fight or flight (ready to fight or to run). Side effects include elevated heart rate and dry mouth etc. Your body is calmed down by the PNS.


When your body percieves a stressor the hypothalamus is alerted which releases CRF, which alerts the Pituary Gland which releases ACTH, which alerts the adrenal cortex which releases CORT, which prompts stress effects on the body.


Hans Selye devised the General Adaptation Syndrome in regards to chronic stress:

Alarm response --> resistance --> exhaustion

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The immune system

It is accepted that stress has a negative effect on the immune system. Kiecolt-Glaser 1984
She took blood samples of medical students a month before their exams and during their exams. She was going to measure the NK (natural killer) cell activity in the blood and compare the results. The NK cell activity was a lot lower in the second sample, and the lower the activity the more succeptable one is to illness Marucha 1998
He would cut a student during the holidays and three days before their exams - the wound inflicted just before the exam took 40% longer to heal Jacobs and Charles They found that cancer patients tended to experience a lot of stress before their diagnosis

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Life changes

Holmes and Rahe
Holmes and Rahe spoke to hospital patients and found that many of them experienced major life events (both positive and negative) before falling ill. They concluded that these major life events effected health. Based on this they made the SRRS (with the help of 400 patients) and gave numerical value to 43 life events. Death of spouse was deemed the highest at 100.

He aimed to test the hypothesis proposed by him and Holmes and tested this on 3 US Navy Ships (just over 2700 men). He prepaired the military version of the SRRS (the SRE) and also gave out questionnaires to the men to find out their recent medical history and their recent life events. He also made medical records for the next tour of duty (which lasted for 7 months). He found a correlation of +.118

Cohen 1998
Support for Holmes and Rahe was provided by Cohen.

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Daily Hassles and Uplifts

Daily hassles are the day to day events that get in our way, and uplifts are the things that cheer us up. Lazarus argues that daily hassles have more of a negative effect on our health because we come into contact with them more.

DeLonghis 1988

DeLonghis studied 75 recently married couples and found that there was a +.59 correlation between hassles and next day health problems, such as the flu or colds.

Marmott + Brady 1997

Marmott and Brady found that in a low paid job without much control you are three times more likely to suffer from stress related illness' that those of a better job. However, those with a powerful job do experience stress, just a different kind of stress.

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