Stress and health in the modern world

Stress has increasingly been linked to illness, especially mental health, in contemporary world. For instance, with advancement of psychology to define concepts such as depression and anxiety disorders, the role of stress in development of mental illness has been highlighted. Nevertheless, the contribution of stress to illness remains ambiguous partly due to lack of a conventional definition and lack of physical attributes associated with other disease-causing agents such as chemicals, bacteria and viruses.  For instance, there has been ambiguity as to whether stress is a nonspecific response or specific response to the demands placed on an individual’s body. Lack of physical attributes, on its part, presents challenges to diagnose stress as the basis of a particular mental illness. Despite such ambiguity, current research indicates that stress is a contributor to mental illness, which may vary with factors such as the job one engages in, thus necessitating appropriate coping or management strategies.

Arising from the various definitions of stress, stress can be divided into two forms. As argued by Colligan and Higgins (2005), stress could either be eustress (linked to positive events e.g. job promotion) or distress (linked to negative events e.g. loss of a loved one). Due to such a delineation, the type of stress an individual experiences depends on one’s cognitive appraisal of the event endured. A positive appraisal would lead to eustress whereas a negative appraisal leads to distress. Since individuals perceive events in a different way, an event that could be a source of stress (a stressor) for one individual may not elicit such a reaction from another individual. Common reference to stress, however, relates to distress, whose long-term effects are associated with development and progression of mental illnesses such as depression. For instance, individuals who attend treatment for depression are noted to have experienced strenuous life events over the preceding months eventually leading to depression (Tafet & Benardini, 2003). Proceed to part 2

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