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Mendo Lake Family Life

How Stressed-Out Are You?

Jan 07, 2006 12:00AM

How Stressed-Out Are You?

According to the APAs (American Psychological Association) online Help Center :

  • 43 percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
  • 75 percent to 90 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
  • Women who are stressed are twice as likely to have painful menstrual periods as those who are not.
  • Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death, heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.

There's even evidence linking stress with premature aging. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found that prolonged psychological stress affects molecules that are believed to play a role in cellular aging and, possibly, the onset of disease. In the study, the immune cells of women who care for chronically ill children aged faster than those of women with healthy kids. Common symptoms of early stress include headache, sleep disorders, difficulty concentrating, short-temper, upset stomach, job dissatisfaction, low morale, depression, and anxiety.

Research suggests that women handle stress in a unique way. During stress, women will care for their children and also find support from their female friends. Researchers call this response to stress 'tend and befriend." Women's bodies make chemicals that promote these responses, one of which is oxytocin. Known as the breast-feeding hormone, oxytocin has a calming effect during stress. Women also have the hormone estrogen, which boosts the effects of oxytocin. Men, however, experience higher levels of testosterone during stress causing hostility, withdrawal, and anger.