Stress and Health
Critically evaluate the evidence for a link between life events and illness.
Stress was first defined by Hans Selye in 1936, where he described stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. There are different approaches to stress such as stress as a transaction, which focuses on the way an individual assesses a stressor and how this affects the way they would cope or respond to the stressor. This approach has been further explained by Lazarus & Folkman.
Stress as a transaction:
Lazarus & Folkman (1984) focus on the cognitive-transactional view of stress, they define stress as the relationship between an individual and the environment and whether it is seen as endangering his or her wellbeing. This means that stress is not a property of the person or the environment but of the relationship between them. Lazarus and Folkman further focus on the concept of interpretation of stress appraisal which includes primary and secondary appraisal components. Primary appraisal involves determining whether the stressor poses a threat e.g. am I in trouble? Or what is at stake? Secondary appraisal involves people's evaluation of their resources and options for coping (Lazarus, 1991). For example, secondary appraisal is a person's evaluation of who should be held accountable. A person can hold herself, another, or a group of other people accountable for the situation at hand. Blame may be given for a harmful event and credit may be given for a beneficial event (Lazarus, 1991).
Holmes and Rahe (1967) came up with the oldest approach which was the life-events approach, they identified events and conditions that frequently lead to the seeking of medical help. These include events such as the loss of a spouse, marriage, a change in residence, but also Christmas and minor violations of the law were included. They developed a Social Readjustment Rating Scale, which included a list of 43 events, each with a predetermined weight according to the extent to which the event requires adjustment. For example, the death of a spouse received a weighting of 100, marriage had a weighting of 50, and trouble with the boss was given a rating of 23.
This approach has been criticised by several theorists because it conflicts with the relevance of the appraisal process. In addition, questionnaires/response-based measures cover only a limited subset of all important life changes and stressful conditions, and fail to include several other kinds of stressors. For example, daily stressors, chronic stressors, traumatic experiences, disasters and ‘non-events’ i.e. when certain anticipated and hoped for events do not happen (e.g. women who do not become pregnant). This approach also failed to take into account physical and psychological stressors associated with specific jobs or living environments (e.g. shift work, high temperatures).
Brown (1974) suggested that in order to determine severity of an...