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The Relationship Between Stress and Illness

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Abstract Research has shown a connection between stress and physical illness. Furthermore, who becomes ill under pressure may be regulated by other factors such as personality type. Several studies conducted confirm that stress is positively correlated with incidences of physical illness (DeVito, 1994). It is also becoming common knowledge that many physical diseases are either related to or can be exacerbated by excessive stress. Stress reduction is becoming a part of treatment and prevention of many diseases. Even insurance companies are paying for programmes such as ones that reverse heart disease, which include learning stress reduction techniques. Many studies have tried to link and explain the role of the immune system in the human stress response. The issue has even been given its own term, psychoneuroimmunology, meaning the study of the “direct causal relationship between stress and illness” (DeVito, 1994). For example, a study looking at wound repair in caregivers vs. non-caregivers found that caregivers, who were under significantly more stress than non caregivers, took an average of nine days longer to heal than non caregivers (Keicolt-Glaser, Marucha, Malarkey, Mercado, and Glaser, 1995). This study cited differences in the chemical immunological responses between the two groups.

It is unclear whether or not illness is more likely to be related to perceived stress, rather than actual life events which are considered stressful. Personality may also factor in the relationship between stress and illness. Correlations between illness, personality type, and/or stress have been found. For example, the Type A personality has been associated with a higher incidence of heart disease. Neuroticism has also been linked to higher incidences of stress related illness (Hoffman, Levy-Shiff, and Malinski, 1996). An investigation published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a lack of diverse social contacts was correlated with greater risks of colds. This risk outweighed other factors such as smoking, low vitamin C intake or elevated stress hormones (“Harvard Health Letter”, 1998). People who are more likely to have social contact probably score higher on scales of extroversion, which indicate an outgoing, sociable personality. Studies of extroversion have shown that this trait may ameliorate the negative effects of stressful events (Hoffman, Levy-Shiff, and Malinski, 1996). Therefore,



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