Psychological Effects: Stressful life events usually cause depressive, and anxiety disorders (6). So the person who has a high level of life stress (e.g. unemployment, recent divorces, traumatic events, etc.) is more likely to suffer from high rates of depression (7). Additionally some studies suggested that anxiety disorders commonly occurs before depression, and anxious people are most likely to experience depression after stressful life events (8,9).
Physical Effects: Stress triggers the autonomic nervous system and leads to release stress hormones (epinephrine and cortisol). A high level of epinephrine increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes; while cortisol increases blood sugar levels and pulse rate, constrict vessels, and suppress the immune system (10). When body perceives a threat, it gets ready for ‘fight or flight’ response. However, if the stressor is continuously activated, acute stress responses become maladaptive and cause physical damage to the bodies (1). In addition, it was stated that a lot of disease are actually connected with psycho-social stress, for instance, men with low socio-economic level have more tendency to carry a risk for cardiovascular diseases, and people who have stressful work lives are more likely to experience hypertension and cardiovascular diseases (1). Also, in a study, it was found that people with stressful life events and experiencing a high level of perceived stress have the greatest probability to develop cold symptoms when they are exposed to a virus because long-term and insistent stress damages to immune system (11,12). Excessive psychological distress might worsen the allergic diseases, e.g. asthma, and increase the risk of developing allergy in sensitive people (13).
1. Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G., & Siegel, S. D. (2005). Stress and Health: Psychological, Behavioral, and Biological Determinants. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1(1), 607-628.
6. Hammen, C. (2005). Stress and depression. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 293-319.
7. Kessing, L. V., Agerbro, E., & Mortensen, P. B. (2003). Does the impact of major stressful life events on the risk of developing depression change throughout life? Psychological Medicine, 33, 1177-1184.
8. Breslau, N., Davis, G. C., Andreski, P., & Peterson, E. (1995). Sex differences in depression: A role for preexisting anxiety. Psychiatry. Research, 58, 1-12.
9. Brown, G. W., Bifulco, A., Harris, T., & Bridge, L. (1986). Life stress, chronic subclinical symptoms and vulnerability to clinical depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 11, 1-19.
10. Headspace. Meditation for Stress. Retrieved from https://www.headspace.com/meditation/stress
11. Cohen, S., Frank, E., Doyle, W. J., Skoner, D. P., Rabin, B. S., & Gwaltney, J. M. (1998). Types of stressors that increase susceptibility to the common cold in healthy adults. Health Psychology, 17, 214-23.
12. Harbuz, M. S., Chover-Gonzalez, A. J., & Jessop, D. S. (2003). Hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis and chronic immune activation. Annual New York Academy Of Science, 992, 99-106.
13. Gailen, D., M. & Matthew T. T. (2018). Stress, mindfulness and the allergic patient, Expert Review of Clinical Immunology.