Effects of Stress

For this assignment, you will use the following resources.  Review all of them before you begin this assignment so that you are familiar with the content in each.

The resources for this assignment are : 

Please write your responses in complete sentences and use your own words; do not copy and paste information from the source.

1. How important is social support in mitigating the effects of stress?   In your answer, describe the different forms that social support can take and how social support mitigates the effects of stress on the body.

2. Finally, while you may not be able to eliminate all of the stressors in your life, how could you use this information about stress (cognitive) appraisal and social support to strengthen your resistance to chronic stress?   

Environmental Stress and Health

Environmental stressors are usually considered to fall into one of four distinct classes: cataclysmic events, stressful life events, daily hassles, and ambient stressors (Evans and Cohen 1987). 

Cataclysmic events comprise sudden catastrophes that affect many individuals at the same time. For instance, floods, major storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, nuclear power plant accidents, chemical plant accidents, and the discovery of toxic waste dumps belong to this category. Cataclysmic events are seldom predictable, neither with respect to their beginning, nor with respect to their course, but they are usually expected to be rather short.

Stressful life events are major incidents in the course of life that require major individual adaptive responses. Such events include major changes in work, or residential environment, e.g., beginning a new job, moving to a new residential area, major construction work in the present residential area, or a major perceptible change in the operating conditions of a nearby stressor. The event as such is usually short, but the behavioral consequences may be long, or permanent.

Daily hassles are repeatedly occurring aversive events of ordinary life, such as arguments with colleagues, crowded classrooms, and traffic congestion on the daily route to work. Although they typically are more or less predictable, the individual has little means to avoid such hassles, and the duration is rather short.

Ambient stressors is a term proposed by Campbell (1983), denoting more continuous and intractable background characteristics of the physical environment. They often go unnoticed, like the continuous hum of the air conditioning, the permanent dust in an industrial area, and the faint hiss of the central heating system. Most people believe that they can adapt to ambient stressors, and they consider the costs of coping with such stressors to be higher than simply enduring them.

In addition, each type of environmental stressor can be categorized along several dimensions, of which we mention only three.


The major dimension is the degree of controllability over the environmental stressor. Control may be either direct (e.g., switching off the neighbor’s noisy lawn mower), indirect (e.g., closing the windows in order to reduce the noise penetration), social (e.g., calling authorities to stop the noise), or cognitive (e.g., knowing that the noise will stop in about an hour). It has often turned out that stress effects decrease with increased control, but sometimes control has secondary stress effects (e.g., closing the windows will increase the temperature inside the house).


Related to cognitive control is the predictability of the stressor. High predictability of the occurrence and time course of an aversive agent may help people to cope with it. For instance, residents in the vicinity of city rail systems usually know exactly the time schedule of the trains and seldom complain about noise and vibration, but they feel irritated when a train is missing. Alternatively, knowing beforehand that a new airport will open in the neighborhood does cause greater stress effects than knowing that the old airport will close in the neighborhood (Hatfield et al. 1998).


Stressors may be more or less perceptually salient or identifiable. Some environmental agents are of rather low intensity and may either be not detected at all (e.g., low radioactive radiation), others are only detected when intensity changes (e.g., the faint current of air conditioners). If an environmental agent is not perceptually salient, stress reactions may occur because people get informed about potential hazards, and the type and degree of stress reaction depends very much on the content of information and the credibility of its source.

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