Causes of Stress



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Causes of Stress

a) Work

Most people with a job would agree that they experience some levels of stress. However, stress levels can differ according to the type of job held. Johansson found that those people who were responsible for meeting targets and who had a lack of social contact were more stressed. However, even the people with less stressful jobs were found to be more stressed at work than at home, suggesting that any job is going to cause some level of stress.




Key Study: Johansson (1978) – Stress Responses in Swedish sawmill workers
Aim: To investigate whether work stressors such as repetitiveness, machine-regulated pace of work and high levels of responsibility, increase stress-related physiological arousal and stress related illness.
Method/Procedure: This was a natural experiment using an independent measures design. The participants were 24 workers at a Swedish Sawmill. 14 were classified as being in a high stress risk group, these were the ‘finishers’. The finishers had to work at a set pace, governed by the production line, their work was complex and required a great deal of knowledge. They were also responsible for their own and their team’s wages and worked in social isolation. So their jobs were repetitive, constrained, socially isolated, but also complex with a lot of responsibility. The other group of 10 workers were classified as the control group (low risk of stress) - they were cleaners or maintenance workers.
Each participant was asked to give a daily urine sample to measure levels of stress-related hormones (adrenaline and noradrenaline). Body temperature was checked and they were asked to complete a self-report about mood, alertness and caffeine and nicotine consumption. They completed these measures when they first arrived at work and a further four times during the day. Baseline readings were taken at home before the study started. Records of stress-related illness and absenteeism were also kept.

Results: The high-risk group of 14 finishers secreted more stress hormones on work days than on rest days, and higher levels than the control group. The high-risk group of finishers also showed significantly higher levels of stress-related illness such as headaches and higher levels of absenteeism than the low-risk group of cleaners. In the self-report, the high risk group felt more rushed and irritated than the control group. They also rated their well-being as lower than the control group.
Conclusion: A combination of work stressors - especially repetitiveness, machine-pacing of

work and high levels of responsibility – lead to chronic (long-term) physiological arousal.

This in turn leads to stress-related illness and absenteeism.



**NOTE: This study can also be used for the ‘Measuring Stress – Combined Approach’ section**

Questions

1. Sketch a graph to show the levels of adrenaline in urine at the four sample times throughout the day.


2. Discuss the strengths of the data collection methods employed in this study.

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3. Evaluate this study – you must cover all of the following points within your evaluation:

Ecological validity; Ethics; Usefulness of the research; Sample; Correlational nature of the results

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b) Life Events and Daily Hassles –

Previous research by Holmes and Rahe (which we look at in detail later on) had found that life events (such as marriage, death of a spouse, etc.) can predict stress. Kanner et al (1981) found that stress can be related to more minor things, such as everyday hassles.


Make a list of 10 things that have caused you minor irritation today. (E.g. You may have had to wait to use

the bathroom, missed the bus, been nagged to hand in homework).

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There is evidence to suggest that minor stressors can combine to become one large cause of stress. Kanner et al’s (1981) study shows how stress can affect us all, by seeing how daily hassles can predict psychological symptoms of stress.

Task: Write the questions that correspond to the following answers about Kanner’s (1981) study.
Key Study: Kanner et al (1981) – Daily Hassles as a Cause of Stress


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A. To investigate whether daily hassles can predict psychological symptoms of stress.

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A. Longitudinal study with a repeated measures design.

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A. Hassles and Uplifts Scale and the Berkman Life Events Scale.

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A. 100 middle-aged Californians.

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A. Once a month for 10 months.

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A. After 10 months.

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A. Having too many things to do.

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A. Daily hassles were positively correlated with the psychological symptoms of stress.

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A. High scores on the Uplifts Scale.

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A. Daily hassles are a powerful predictor of the psychological symptoms of stress.

Write a short summary of Kanner et al’s (1981) study using the A, M, P, R, C, E formula.

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Evaluation Questions

1. Quantitative data was gathered, which was useful for making comparisons between the participants about the number of daily hassles they experienced. However, what are the limitations of taking a quantitative approach here?

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2. Participants had to complete the Life Events Scale after 10 months, which required them to think back to what had happened to them in this time. What are the problems with this, and the use of the self report method in general here? ……………………………………………………………………………….................................................................................

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3. Why was employing a longitudinal design a strength of this research?

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c) Lack of Control

Tangible stressors are one cause of stress, but we can also consider situations that might contribute to our stress. For example, if your neighbours were playing loud music whilst you were trying to get to sleep, then there are two possible reasons for that situation to be stressful. Firstly, it could be the level of noise itself, or more likely cause of stress is your lack of control over the noise.




Key Study: Geer and Maisel (1972) – The Effect of Control in Reducing Stress Reactions
Aim: To see if perceived control or actual control can reduce stress reactions to averse stimuli.
Method/Procedure: Laboratory experiment in which 60 student participants were shown photographs of dead car crash victims and their stress levels were measured by GSR (Galvanic skin response) and heart rate through ECG monitoring. The study employed an independent measures with participants randomly assigned to three conditions:



  • Group 1: Were given control over how long they looked at the images for. They could press a button to terminate the image and were told a tone would precede each new image.

  • Group 2: Were warned the photos would be 60 seconds apart they would see the picture for 35 seconds and a 10 second warning tone would precede each photo. The group had no control but did know what was happening.

  • Group 3: Were told that from time to time they would see photos and hear tones but were not given timings or any control.

Each participant was seated in a sound proofed room and wired up to the GSR and ECG machines. The machine was calibrated for 5 minutes while the participant relaxed and a baseline measurement was then taken. Instructions were read over an intercom. Each photo was preceded with a 10 second tone and then flashed up and the photograph disappeared either when the button was pressed (Group 1) or after the predetermined length of time (Groups 2 and 3). The GSR was taken at the onset of the tone, during the second half of the tone and in response to the photo.


Results: ECG recordings were discarded as they appeared inaccurate. Group 1 (who could control how long they saw the image for) experienced the least stress. The predictability group (Group 2) showed higher stress, as they knew what was coming, but did not have any control over the photograph. Group 3 (no control) showed the highest stress levels.
Conclusion: Having control over your environment can reduce stress responses.


**NOTE: This study can also be used for the ‘Measuring Stress – Physiological Measures’ section**

Evaluation Questions

1. Evaluate the methodology of this study (a strictly controlled laboratory experiment).

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2. Discuss the limitations of the sample. ………………………………………………………………………………...........................................................................................

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3. Describe the ethical problems with this study. ………………………………………………………………………………...........................................................................................

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3. Individual differences are a major problem for any researcher investigating stress. Explain why.

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Essay Plan Task – Part (a) Question: Describe one piece of research which considers work as a source of stress. [10 marks]


List all the points you think you should include in a top-band answer to this question (refer to ‘Exam Techniques and Tips’ Booklet for mark scheme)


Introductory Sentence

First paragraph: (Include examples/elaboration/ counter arguments where appropriate)

Second paragraph: (Include examples/elaboration/ counter arguments where appropriate)


Third paragraph: (Include examples/elaboration/ counter arguments where appropriate)

Concluding statement:


Essay Plan Task – Part (b) Question: Discuss problems of conducting research into the causes of stress. [15 marks]


List all the points you think you should include in a top-band answer to this question (refer to ‘Exam Techniques and Tips’ Booklet for mark scheme)


Introductory Sentence

First paragraph: (Include examples/elaboration/ counter arguments where appropriate)

Second paragraph: (Include examples/elaboration/ counter arguments where appropriate)


Third paragraph: (Include examples/elaboration/ counter arguments where appropriate)

Concluding statement:



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