What Causes Stress, And Are There Any Special Factors That Contribute To Stress?

Dr. Redford Williams answers the question: 'What Causes Stress?'

ByABC News
December 22, 2008, 3:55 PM

— -- Question: What causes stress, and are there any special factors that contribute to stress?

Answer: Stress is caused by situations that put high demands on you, but don't give you much control over how you're going to meet those demands. A job, like an assembly line job, where you had to push in a widget every 35 seconds and you couldn't stop the line or anything like that would be a high stress job. People who have these kind of jobs we call high-strain, job-strain jobs, and people who have these kind of jobs are at higher risk for all kinds of health problems -- depression, heart disease, hypertension. One study even found people with this high-strain type of job to have enlarged hearts compared to those who had low-strain jobs.

Another source of stress in the environment that we all have to face at one time or another, are high-demand, low-control situations like having to get to a certain place in traffic over a short amount of time and it's traffic jams keeping you from getting there.

And then of course there are those life events that are stressful -- death of a loved one, of course, being the most severe that puts people at stress. But even minor life events, even good things happening like getting a new job, or getting a new mortgage can be something that puts stress on people. And people who have a buildup of these stressful life events also have health problems. Depression can come on in these kinds of situations, but also medical problems as well. So in general, it's situations in your life which place demands on you to have to do something, and it's not clear or easy for you to be able to meet those demands and this can range from jobs to stressful things that happen to you in your life.

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