Causes of Stress and Its Effects

The contemporary society is increasingly exposing humanity to devastating occurrences. These issues include terror attacks, natural disasters, economic constraints, layoffs, failed relationships, conflicts, and other challenging situations. These factors increase the susceptibility of individuals to stress (Dimsdale, 2008). The American Psychological Association (APA) has defined stress as the debilitating psychological and emotional response to situations that people perceive to be threatening or dangerous (APA, 2010). Every human being experiences constant worry when confronted with challenges that are beyond their control or understanding. Although stress is inevitable, the failure to manage stressors adequately causes deleterious health effects.

Stress is a normal body reaction that has become an assimilated component of daily living. People often experience trivial and momentous events that expose them to the ongoing dilemma of anxiety (Kiecolt & Glaser, 2013). Stress can be in the form of either eustress or distress. Eustress is a good type of stress that motivates individuals to work harder or become better. By contrast, pain occurs when humans are unable to cope with eustress effectively (APA, 2010). Individuals conceptualize and manage both situations differently. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has identified the ability to deal with stressors efficiently as a significant aspect in reducing the adverse effects (NSF, 2009). Psychosocial stressors (factors within the physical and social environment) are the principal causes of stress.

Financial pressures have always been the primary sources of stress for the majority of people. The ripple effects of the 2008/2009 have exacerbated this risk further (APA, 2010). Lightman (2008) has reported that money problems have superseded health concerns and family responsibilities as the leading cause of stress. The cost of living, education, and health care have been rising despite the improvements in the economy. These financial difficulties are affecting populations from the low-income households disproportionately than those living in high-income families (APA, 2010). According to Kiecolt and Glaser (2013), the constant worry about paying bills and meeting other monetary obligations increases the vulnerability of stress. These financial constraints will persist as people adjust to change.

Change has become a constant occurrence in the modern world. Human beings are always transitioning from one job to the next or moving to a new residence. Disregarding the reasons for this change, constant adjustments place people under immense pressure (Dimsdale, 2008). Transformations are essential and necessary because they facilitate personal growth and development. Nonetheless, life modifications can degenerate into undesirable health effects. For instance, starting college or a new job are both exciting and challenging moments (APA, 2010). These events cause stress because they require a person to move away from home and other social networks. The process of fitting in, coupled with the realignment to the new environment can cause anxiety and sleeplessness (NSF, 2009).

The news of failing marriages and relationships has become a commonplace phenomenon in the modern world. Stressors from outside sources frequently cause problems within families and relations. For example, work-related pressures and daily hassles are extraneous issues that can cause distress in the family or relationships (Lightman, 2008). The pain of separation, divorce, and breakup is the primary source of depression and anxiety among couples. On the other hand, the association with other family members, friends, and coworkers can also be sources of tension besides providing support and strength (APA, 2010). Kiecolt and Glaser (2013) have indicated that these relations can enable people to live fulfilling lives or affect their self-esteem and confidence.

The current society is increasingly becoming diverse because of the ongoing trend of globalization. Schools, workplaces, and communities constitute individuals from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Consequently, minority groups experience widespread prejudices and segregation (APA, 2010). Kiecolt and Glaser have noted that cultural, language, and socioeconomic barriers contribute to discrimination. Such biases undermine the capacity of these individuals to assimilate into the new environment. Differences in education, skills, and work experience are other sources of stressors (Lightman, 2008). Some companies may favor employees that have advanced competencies than those who have limited skills. These factors expose people to the risk of physical and psychological health effects (APA, 2010).

Stress contributes to the incidences of mortality and morbidity significantly. Cardiovascular disease represents one of the documented effects of stress. According to Dimsdale (2008), chronic stress is an underlying risk factor for high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. Researchers have also established a causal link between weight gain and cardiovascular disease. People suffering from immense distress have the tendency of eating more than those who do not. Stress increases the concentration of cortisol, which contributes to the intensity of hunger spells (Lightman, 2008). An abnormal body mass index causes the onset of cardiac complications because fatty tissues constrict the blood vessels (Dimsdale, 2008). Kiecolt and Glaser (2013) have found out that overweight and obesity increase the risk of diabetes.

The individuals suffering from chronic distress do not get enough sleep. Inadequate or deprived sleep suppresses the immune system, which in turn makes the body vulnerable to infections (NSF, 2009). In addition, stress induces the underlying diseases that contribute to digestive problems. Such challenges include vomiting and nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps (Lightman, 2008). Thus, the preceding effects facilitate the adoption of unhealthy behaviors. For instance, an individual may resort to drinking, drug abuse, or the use of sleep medications and antidepressants to cope with stress. The main concern is that these behaviors can elevate blood sugar levels, which increase the risk of developing the Type 2 diabetes (Kiecolt & Glaser, 2013).

In addition, chronic stress instigates emotional dysfunction and mental disability. The primary health effects of distress that most people experience are anxiety and depression (Lightman, 2008). The increased exposure to external stressors (such as economic hardships, marital problems, and occupational challenges) causes emotional and mental disorders (APA, 2010). APA has found out that the lack of social support and effectual coping strategies worsen the severity of these illnesses. The inability to manage stressful life events exposes individuals to burnout. Kiecolt and Glaser (2013) have asserted that burnout emerges from the accumulation of both positive and negative emotional-oriented responses to stress. The detrimental health effects of stress necessitate the formulation of effective coping strategies.

Stress is an unavoidable fact that every human being experiences throughout the lifespan. Individuals encounter life-changing events that make them susceptible to the risk of stress. Stress can be either good (eustress) or bad (distress) depending on the coping strategies that people adopt. Psychosocial factors constitute the principal causes of stress. These attributes include financial pressure, adjustment to change, challenging relationships, and discrimination. The combination of these stressors increases the risk of physical and psychological health effects. Although the causes and effects of stress differ significantly among individuals, coping strategies are essential to limit the severity of symptoms. It is imperative for every person to seek support when confronted with unbearable events.


American Psychological Association. Stress in America 2010: Key findings. Web.

Dimsdale, J. (2008). Psychological stress and cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 51, 1237–1246.

Kiecolt-Glaser, J., & Glaser, R. (2013). Stress and health research homepage. Web.

Lightman, S. (2008). Chronic stress can significantly damage health. Web.

National Sleep Foundation. (2009). Depression and sleep. Web.

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