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Is stress all in the mind? It is argued that stress is a response and begins in the mind as a weigh-up between our perceived demands and our perceived coping ability and when these are mismatched it triggers a psychological and physiological response. Stress symptoms can affect your body, your mind, and your behavior. In this essay, we will look into two research studies that examine the relationship between physiology and behavior in stress.
One research method was Freidman and Rosenman’s investigation into the link between type A behavior pattern and heart disease. The conventional type A person is ambitious, competitive, and time conscious, type B personalities do have the same level of ambition but do so in a non-competitive, easy-going way. Friedman and Rosenman’s carried out a study of 1000 Californian men either with type A or type B personality over a course of nine years to see if their personality affected stress levels. They found that type A behavior increases vulnerability to heart disease as 257 men who took part died of a heart attack of which 70% of them had type A. Although their observations found a strong correlation between type A behavior and heart disease this does not prove that type A causes cardiovascular disease. This claim has been challenged by critics for numerous reasons, firstly type A personality varies too much and it is difficult to determine if a person has it, they also state that their stress levels were more likely linked to negative emotions such as frustration and anger which are not permanent characteristics of someone’s personality also that other similar studies have failed to show a connection between the two. The sample size and the practicality of the experiment are good as they have experimented on a large number of people and the conditions of the observations, and the demand characteristics were unlikely to alter the individual’s outcomes. The sample they have used was not so good as it lacked generalization due to everyone who took part was male, aged 39-59 and from California, this only represents a small fraction of the population and does not represent the population as a whole. There is also little evidence to suggest that levels of stress are different between males and females.
Another research method that tried to establish a relationship between stress and illness was Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe’s social readjustment rating scale. They looked at 5000 patients’ medical records and identified they experienced substantial life events just before they became ill. They then created a scale that measured the amount of stress caused by 43 different life events by rating the degree of social adjustment required, for example, the death of a spouse is valued at 100 as it would take a substantial readjustment compared to a minor law violation which is valued at 12. They gave the SRRS to 2500 American sailors to determine how many life events occurred for each of them in the past 6 months and recorded each one’s score. Over the next 6 months, they also recorded the health status of each participant and found a positive correlation of +0.118 among the SRRS score and the illness scores so the frequency of illness increased with the score measured on the scale.
The evidence they produced proved a correlation between levels of stress and illness that could contribute to a body of knowledge but, it cannot prove directly that it was only the life events on the scale that contributed to the illness, also the correlation they found was quite small taking into account even a strong correlation does not provide clarification on what actually caused the illness. The scale does not consider the differences of effect for each individual as they would vary for each person, for example, some people absolutely love Christmas it’s their favorite time of year whereas others really dislike Christmas and find it really stressful therefore they would value the stress of it very differently being at different ends of the scale. The SRRS scale doesn’t differentiate whether a person would view the live event as a positive change or a negative one, marriage is seen to be a positive change for most people. Tests like these can be very unreliable due to being based on self-reporting and relying on memory, a different study suggests that some participants were asked to complete the SRRS test every month for a year their results were inconsistent. Some argue that a lot of the time it is the smaller thing in life that mostly contribute to stress, such a running late for work, being stuck in traffic, self-esteem and confrontations and most of the life events in the SRRS are rare occasions, therefore, would have the least contribution to someone’s stress levels.
Both of the researches above found some considerable results which allow the possibility that bad health and illness could be caused by stress but considering the variability of both the researches it is not possible to state that they are valid claims. There are many factors where stress would cause illness but the significance would differ from person to person.
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