Mapping the impact of stress on our daily lives is necessary to improve public health and well-being of the population. Because if stress occurs often and remains high for a long time, it can cause depression, anxiety, and burnout, but also physical diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.
Stress: buzzword or assassination?
Despite this, stress seems to be the buzzword of modern life. “It almost sounds as if having stress is very normal, but it affects all aspects of our lives,” says Brenda Penninx, professor of psychiatric epidemiology. “Most people even deal with a form of stress on a daily basis, with all its negative consequences. According to the World Health Organization, stress-related disorders are the greatest burden of disease and are a major threat to our well-being and even to a healthy economy,” Penninx continues.
The gap between understanding and reality
Despite its relevance, our understanding of stress is very limited. Recent studies that dominate current stress concepts do not teach us about person-specific patterns of stress responses in the 'real world'. Eco de Geus, professor in biological psychology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, comments: “As a result, a gap continues to exist between our understanding of what determines stress in our daily lives, how we can measure it, what the dynamics of different stress reactions are, how they are reduced by our own behavior, and how stress responses negatively affect the onset and course of stress-related illnesses.”
An advantage of stress research in our present day is that the technology and methods to move stress research from the laboratory to everyday life have advanced greatly. By applying new technology, we can do much better and faster research into stress and its influence on humans. This enables the development of new monitoring and intervention strategies to monitor and reduce stress in everyday life and its impact on health.
De Geus: “We will measure, for example, how reactions to stress in daily life arise from the interplay between predisposition, environment, time and person-specific factors, how stress in daily life can be reliably measured in a specific individual in real time, and how and when potential beneficial stress responses turn into detrimental effects on mental and physical health.”
For more information, visit the Stress in Action website.