Stress in 21st Century

Table of Content

The aim of this essay is to illustrate the positive correlation between stress and behavior. Despite being a prevalent phenomenon in the 21st century, studies from the late 20th century indicate that indications of a stress epidemic were already evident during that time. Weiten, Lloyd, Dunn, and Hammer (2009) describe stress as “any circumstances that threaten or are perceived to threaten an individual’s wellness and subsequently challenge their ability to manage.”

Research on stress epidemiology started in 1936 with Hans Selye, who was a pioneer in recognizing stress as a psychological problem rather than a physical or psychosomatic one. Recent studies have also demonstrated the influence of daily stressors on our physical and mental health (Seta, Seta & McElroy, 2002). For example, Lazarus and Cohen (1977) have investigated how environmental stress can have adverse effects on human behavior. The term “stress” is employed by researchers to describe different conditions and is understood differently in various medical disciplines.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

According to Bunker et al. (2003), stress in a psychological and psychosocial context encompasses several factors. These factors consist of anxiety, depression, panic disorder, hostility, Type A behavior, acute and chronic life events, social isolation, environmental issues, workplace issues, and lack of social support.

The concept of Type A behavior pattern includes various personality traits such as rushed, ambitious, and competitive behavior, impatience, hostility, and intolerance (Friedman 1974). In 1936, Dr. Hans Selye began studying stress epidemiology and continued his research with another publication in 1950 (Selye 1950). During this time period, stress started to be recognized as a psychological condition rather than solely a physical or psychosomatic illness; however, its prevalence was not as high as it is today. Selye suggested that stress not only affects the sympathetic nervous system but also other bodily functions like the immune system, reproduction, and digestive systems. These functions remain impaired while the source of stress persists in an individual’s life. Therefore, if the stress is prolonged, these functions may not fully recover; if it is short-term but repeated over time, they may gradually recover. The extended suppression of the immune system increases susceptibility to recurrent illnesses. This provides an explanation for why certain individuals are more prone to getting sick (See Appendix 1).

Serge Doublet (2001) challenges Selye’s theory that a suppressed immune system is caused by a temporary decrease in lymphocytes or T cells, arguing that it does not have a significant impact. Instead, studies on stress mostly establish correlations rather than cause and effect relationships. However, it has become evident in the latter part of the 20th century that everyday stressors such as losing car keys, facing financial difficulties, experiencing family arguments, or dealing with crowded work or home conditions can lead to a decline in mental and physical health (Kanner et al, 1981). Further research indicates that these minor irritations can accumulate and have cumulative effects on both physical and mental well-being (Seta et al, 2002; Seta et al, 1991). As a result, major stress events like natural disasters are not necessary to negatively impact mental and physical health (Carr, 2000) – refer to Appendix 2. The level of stress an individual experiences depends on their coping mechanisms and perception of the stressor. This means that two individuals facing the same stressors may react differently. Therefore, quantifying stress based on predetermined responses poses challenges (Lacey, 1967; Mason, 1975).

Environmental and workplace stressors have a detrimental impact on wellbeing and behavior in the modern era. These stressors are significant as they are present in our daily lives. Environmental stress can be divided into four main categories: cataclysmic events, stressful life events, daily hassles, and ambient stressors (Baum, Singer, & Baum, 1982; Campbell, 1983; Lazarus & Cohen, 1977). Cataclysmic events encompass natural disasters like floods and fires, as well as war and imprisonment. This also includes technological disasters such as the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident. Stressful life events involve changes in personal circumstances like marriage, divorce, job transitions, births, and deaths of loved ones. Daily hassles consist of common annoyances like crowded trains or arguments with partners or teenagers. The demands of work and home life also contribute to daily hassles. Ambient stressors refer to ongoing factors like noise pollution or overcrowded living situations that individuals constantly face. Extreme temperatures can also be considered ambient stressors. Recent occurrences of cataclysmic events in Australia further underscore how these stressors arise without any control on the part of those affected individualsThe Ingham floods in Queensland and bushfires in Victoria’s Gippsland District demonstrate the lack of control over catastrophic events. Television reports show how people cope with their grief in different ways, depending on their individual circumstances. According to Moss (1973), these survivors’ reactions suggest that they have previous experience using effective strategies to manage current stressors.

Individuals’ behavior may indicate their past experiences with significant environmental disasters or intense life events that caused stress (Milgram, 1970). The development of rural and urban people differs, as urban individuals adapt to the vast amount of information needed for survival in cities, leading them to filter out unnecessary information like crime victims or the homeless. However, the response of urban Australians to flood and fire victims contradicts these conclusions and supports Fischer’s (1976) and Korte’s (1978) findings. When daily life is affected by environmental stressors, behavioral changes can occur. Examples of such stressors include overcrowding and poverty in urban areas, resulting in frustration, tension, substance abuse (including alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs), family violence, and other crimes.

Excessive or prolonged use of stimulants for stress relief has physiological effects. Multiple studies have shown that challenging situations can lead to heightened anxiety, tension, nervousness, and stress (Lazarus, 1966; McGrath, 1970a). Furthermore, research indicates that stress can contribute to negative social interactions characterized by aggression, hostility, and reduced cooperation. Moreover, stress directly impacts decision-making.

Research conducted by Janis (1982) and Janis and Mann (1977) has shown that decision makers, when experiencing stress, often prioritize a few key factors while disregarding other relevant data. Additionally, a significant aspect to consider is that ongoing inability to manage environmental stressors can result in learned helplessness. Cohen (1980) found that individuals who have been exposed to uncontrollable environmental stressors are more inclined to abandon cognitive tasks that require tolerance for frustration. Stress can be manifested through both verbal and non-verbal indicators, which have been identified and classified.

Signs of stress can be observed through verbal cues, such as repetitive speech, frequent use of filler words like ‘um’ and ‘ah’, fast speech, and confused words or sentences. The presence of words like ‘hopeless’ or ‘worried’ can also indicate anxiety or tension. Additionally, body language can serve as a signal for stress, including crossed arms, leaning back, and avoiding eye contact (Siegman, 1982).

Starting from 1976 onwards, several studies have investigated the impact of high residential density on behavior and stress. These studies have discovered a connection between high density and psychological distress or social withdrawal (Evans, 2001; Evans G.W., Lepore S.J., Schroeder A., 1996; Siddiqui R.N., Pandey J., 2003; Baum A. and Paulus P., 1987; Evans G.W., Lepore S.J., Schroeder A., 1996). Appendix 3 contains an excerpt from Siddiqui et al’s (2003) research.

Research conducted by Loo (1978) and Sundstrom (1978) on children in high density environments has demonstrated that both aggressive behavior and social withdrawal can occur. In cases where density levels result in overcrowding and extreme discomfort, withdrawing from others appears to be more significant than aggression and hostility.

Social withdrawal, as observed by Baum et al (1987) and Sundstrom (1978), encompasses behaviors such as reduced eye contact, increased physical distancing, and diminished initiation of conversations. The consequences of workplace stress have also been extensively examined. According to Singh (2006, p. 85), stress can lead to various effects including heightened risk of injury, decreased productivity, absenteeism, dissatisfaction with one’s job, feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety, and impaired concentration. The decline in concentration can contribute to more frequent injuries and decreased productivity.

According to Singh (2006), individuals who encounter significant levels of stress at work face a nearly fivefold higher possibility of developing cardiovascular disease. In Germany, a recent study discovered that approximately 2 million Germans resort to medication as a means of dealing with workplace stress, while 800,000 depend on stimulants to improve their job performance. Moreover, the survey revealed an almost 8% rise in sick days taken by German employees in 2008 due to stress. The survey particularly concentrated on individuals facing demanding jobs, diminished job security, and pressure for achieving outcomes.

According to the Berliner Zeitung (13/02/2009), academics often use medication to enhance their performance and combat fatigue. Stress can also lead to behavioral changes such as unhealthy eating habits, increased smoking and drinking, sleep disorders, rapid speech, and fidgeting (Singh, 2006 p 85). As organizations grow larger and more globally competitive, stress levels correspondingly rise (Singh, p 87). Conflict in the workplace and unsatisfactory working conditions like overcrowding, extreme temperatures, shift work, and pay disparities can also be highly stressful (Appendix 4). Failing to address conflicts may result in anger, hostility, resentment, and even physical violence. However, stress can also have positive effects. The absence of stress can lead to boredom, underachievement,and a lack of motivation. Positive stress is exhibited through the fight or flight response when perceiving a threat.

According to the research in this essay, stress can have physical effects on the body by altering unnecessary bodily functions and activating necessary ones. While positive stress can assist individuals in facing challenges, adapting to change, and making decisions, negative stress is becoming a growing concern with severe repercussions such as depression and violence within families and workplaces. The essay delves into studies conducted on workplace stress and environmental stress, which are exemplified in Appendices 1 to 4. These examples serve to reinforce the connection between stress and behavior. In “Establishing and Maintaining Healthy Environments Toward a Social Ecology of Health Promotion” by Daniel Stokol, it is highlighted that creating a healthy environment plays a crucial role in mitigating stress. This example serves as evidence supporting the conclusion that both physical and mental health can be adversely affected by stress, consequently leading to behavioral changes.

WORD COUNT 2084 REFERENCES Baum, A., Singer, J. E. & Baum, C. (1982) Stress and the Environment. In G. W. Evans (Ed), Environmental Stress (pp 15-44). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Baum, A. and Paulus, P. (1987) Crowding in D, Stokols & I. Altman (Eds), Handbook of Environmental Psychology. New York: Wiley.

Berliner Zeitung, Study: Pill Popping for Work Stress Endemic in Germany Article 13/02/2009 as reported in Deutsche Welle DW-World.DE

Bunker, S. Colquhoun. D., Esler, M.D., Hickie,I.B., Hunt,D.,Jelinek V.M., Oldenburg B.F., Peach,H.G.,
Ruth,D.Tennant,C.C.and Tonkin,A.M.”Stress”and coronary heart disease: psychosocial risk factors
National Heart Foundation of Australia position statement update Medical Journal of Australia,
2003 ,178(6):272-276.

Campbell,J.(1983). Ambient Stressors.Environment and Behaviour ,15 ,355-380.

Carr,V.J,(2000)Stress Effects of Earthquakes.Encyclopaedia of Stress Vol 2,San Diego :Academic

Cohen,S.After Effects of stress on human performance and social behaviour:A review of research
and theory.Psychological Bulletin ,88 ,82-108.

Doublet,S.(2001),excerpt from a personal communication cited in

Accessed on 02/08/2009 Evans, G. W., (2001) Environmental Stress and Health In A. Baum, T. A. Revenson & J. E. Singer (Eds) Handbook of Health Psychology Mahwah N.J. Erlbaum Evans, G.W., S.J. Lepore, A. Schroeder, (1996), The Role of Interior Design Elements in Human Responses to Crowding, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 70, 41-46 Fischer, C.S. (1976). The Urban Experience New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanich Fleming, I., Baum, A., & Weiss, L. (1987), Social density and perceived control as mediators of crowding stress in high-density residential neighborhoods. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 52(5):899-906.

Friedman M, Roseman RH. (1974) Type A behaviour and your heart. New York: Knopf.
Janis, I. (1982). Decision Making under Stress, in L. Goldberger & S. Breznitz (Eds) Handbook of Stress (pp 69-87) New York: Free Press
Janis, I. & Mann, L. (1977) Decision Making. New York: Free Press.
Kanner, A, J Coyne, C. Schaefer, R. S Lazarus,(1981) Comparison of two modes of stress measurement: Daily hassles and uplifts versus major life events. Journal of Behavioural Medicine, 4, 1-39.
Korte, C.(1978) Helpfulness in the urban environment.In A.Baum,J.E.Singer & S.Valins(Eds) Advances in Environmental Psychology Vol 1,(pp 85-110).

Hillsdale, N. J: Erlbaum Lacey, J. I. (1967). Somatic response patterning and stress: Some revisions of activation theory. In M. H. Appley & R. Turnbull (Eds), Psychological stress ( pp14-37) New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.
Lazarus, R. S. (1966). Psychological Stress and the Coping Process. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Lazarus, R. S. and Cohen J. (1977) Environmental Stress in J Wohlwill & I. Altman (Eds) Human Behaviour & Environment (pp 90-127). New York: Plenum
Loo, C. (1978) Issues of crowding research: Vulnerable participants, assessing perceptions and developmental differences. Journal of Population, 1, pp336-348

Cite this page

Stress in 21st Century. (2018, Jan 31). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront