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Viewing stress as a threat puts health at risk, reveals study

A new study found that when stressful situations are perceived as a threat, people are more likely to experience health and well-being issues

The more a person is able to see a stressful situation as a challenge, the more likely they are to report good health and well-being,(Pexels)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 05.02.2024  |  03:48 PM IST

Chronic stress has been linked to various health issues. While the focus is often on how to reduce stress, a new study shows that how people view stress plays a key role. The findings indicate that when stressful situations are perceived as a threat, people are more likely to experience health and well-being issues, both mental and physical, compared to when it is considered a challenge.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Bath, examined stress appraisals, health, and well-being of 395 sports performers through an online survey to better understand how the perception of stress affects health. The findings showed that the more a person is able to see a stressful situation as a challenge, the more likely they are to report good health and well-being, the university’s press statement explained.

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According to the researchers constantly viewing stressful situations as a threat cause a higher risk of mental health problems such as depression, physical illnesses such as colds and the flu, and affect mental well-being, the statement revealed. These problems could be a result of the person constantly feeling overwhelmed or due to a suppressed immune system. The findings were published in the journal, Stress and Health.

People can be taught coping strategies to help them view such situations more favourably, leading to a positive effect on their health and well-being, study co-author Dr Lee Moore explained in the statement.

"Researchers have speculated for the past 15 years that people who repeatedly believe they don't have the resources to cope in stressful situations are putting their health at risk, but we believe this is the first time the theory has been properly tested, leading to us finding a link between stress appraisals and health," Moore said in the statement. Seeing a stressful situation as a challenge can help people grow, he added.

Previous studies have shown different ways in which stress can affect people’s health. For instance, a June 2023 study, published in the journal Neuron, found that chronic stress along with high-calorie comfort foods can make people eat more, increasing cravings for sweets, and leading to weight gain. Another study, published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy in September 2023, showed that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease was more than twice as high in patients with chronic stress.

These studies highlight the importance of better understanding how to approach stress and reduce its negative impact on health.

Also read: How chronic stress is linked to Alzheimer's risk