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Updated 06 November 2013

What is stress?

Have you ever wondered whether certain people or personalities are more susceptible to stress? It seems that no one type of person is more at risk than another.

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We are all sensitive to various stressors. There are no predetermined standards to apply in predicting an individual’s response to stressors and it is a very subjective response.

The degree to which we experience stress in our lives is highly dependent upon individual factors such as our physical health, the quality of our interpersonal relationships, our self image, our resilience, our coping mechanisms, our upbringing and education, our habitual thought patterns, the number of commitments and responsibilities we carry, the degree of others' dependence upon and expectations of us, the amount of support we receive from others, and the number of changes or traumatic events that have recently occurred in our lives.

Some general guidelines, however, may be used as a rule of thumb to identify certain high risk groups. People with social support networks tend to cope better with stress and have better mental health than those who try to do everything by themselves. People who are not well nourished tend to cope poorly with stress, as do those with lack of sleep, those who lead a sedentary lifestyle, or who have existing disease.

High stress levels are predominantly associated with certain age groups or life stages. Children, teenagers, working parents (especially working moms), and retired seniors have the specific stress triggers associated with life transition periods or demanding lifestyles.

According to the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (Holmes & Holmes, 1970), which rates the impact of stressful events, the top five most stressful experiences are as follows:

  • Death of a spouse
  • Divorce
  • Marital separation
  • Jail term
  • Death of a close family member
  • Personal injury or illness
  • Marriage
  • Fired at work
  • Marital reconciliation
  • Retirement

(Health24, updated January 2011)

 
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