Monday, November 25, 2019

Stressful Marital Interactions

The role of hostility in cardiovascular stress responses

Researchers at the University of Utah recently investigated whether people who tend to be hostile react to stressful marital interactions with a greater increase in cardiovascular stress responses than do people who do not tend to be hostile. Cardiovascular stress responses include heart rate and blood pressure.

In the study, sixty couples participated in discussions in which they either agreed or disagreed with each other while facing either low or high evaluative threat. Under low evaluative threat, they were told that their discussions would be recorded but just to check the clarity and volume of their speech. Under conditions of high evaluative threat, they were told that their discussions would be recorded to determine the level of verbal intelligence evident in their discussions.

When evaluative threat was high, hostility was associated with higher systolic blood pressure in husbands. For wives, however, hostility was not related to cardiovascular stress responses. Although, when wives disagreed with their hostile husbands, they responded with increases in heart rate.

The researchers suggest that hostility may make a difference for husbands but not for wives because of efforts by husbands to assert dominance in marital interactions.

Source: Smith, T. W., & Gallo, L. C. (1999). Hostility and cardiovascular reactivity during marital interaction. P

Monday, November 18, 2019

Stress and Smoking Among Adolescents

Among adults, it is well known that stress is related to smoking. Unfortunately, very little attention has been given to the relation between stress and smoking among adolescents. In an attempt to address this shortcoming, researchers at The Australian National University recently reported their findings from a study that examined the relations between stress, smoking, and the use of alcohol and other drugs among adolescents. The participants in the study were in the 10th or 11th grade, years in which many adolescents go through a potentially stressful transition from high school to college or the job market. The goals of the study were (a) to look at the association between stress and smoking among adolescents, (b) to look at the role of specific sources of adolescent stress, and (c) to see whether stress is related not only to smoking but also to the use of alcohol and other drugs.

Overall, they found that some sources of stress among adolescents relate to both smoking and other substances. The associations between stress and smoking were generally stronger than they were between stress and other substances, and these associations involved a greater number of the individual sources of stress for girls than they did for boys. One source of stress in particular, school attendance, clearly differentiated boys and girls in terms of smoking. School attendance represented compulsory school attendance, boredom at school, excessive hours in school, insufficient time for leisure, discipline, and enforced concentration. Additionally, the association between stress and smoking was stronger than the association between stress and other substances.

Although smoking is stimulating biologically, it seemed somehow to serve as a stress reliever. The researchers offer two explanations for why this apparent paradox may occur among adolescents. First, smoking may allow adolescents to briefly distract themselves and shift their attention away from sources of their stress. Second, being known as a "smoker" by peers may improve how adolescents see themselves by making them feel more "grown-up."

Source: Byrne, D. G., Mazanov, J. (1999). Sources of adolescent stress, smoking and the use of other drugs. Stress Medicine, 15, 215-227.

Monday, November 11, 2019


Lowering stress-related high blood pressure though self-hypnosis

For many people, essential hypertension is an unfortunate consequence of leading a stressful life. Essential hypertension refers to high blood pressure that is not caused by any medical problem but instead caused by something else, such as stress from the way in which people live their lives. 

The standard treatment for essential hypertension usually involves some type of drugs, which sometimes involve unpleasant side effects and typically need to be taken indefinitely. A team of researchers from a variety of backgrounds recently published findings from a preliminary study on the effectiveness of self-hypnosis for treating essential hypertension.

Twenty-three inpatients at a veteran's hospital volunteered to participate in the study. They had all been recently diagnosed with essential hypertension. The participants were divided into three groups: the treatment group, the attention-only group, and the control group. The participants in the treatment group were taught how to hypnotize themselves across several sessions and were instructed to practice the technique at home twice a day. The participants in the attention-only group were just asked to try to relax as much as they could during several sessions at home twice a day. The participants in the control group just had their blood pressure taken.

Based on the results of the present study, the use of self-hypnosis to treat essential hypertension seems promising. The participants who practiced self-hypnosis tended to have lower blood pressure than did those who did not. Although the present study did not involve many participants and should be repeated with a larger number of participants to corroborate the findings, it appears as though self-hypnosis could prove to be a worthwhile supplement to drug-based treatments of essential hypertension.

Source: Raskin, R., Raps, C., Luskin, F., Carlson, R., & Cristal, R. (1999). Pilot study of the effect of self-hypnosis on the medical management of essential hypertension.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Innovation and Occupational Stress

Innovation is often an important element of a successful work environment. Without new ideas, new products and services, and new ways of doing things, most businesses would probably not stay in business too long. Research has shown that innovation is associated with factors like goal clarity, feedback, and communication. Stress, however, has been somewhat neglected in most research on innovation in the workplace. Fortunately, researchers in Finland recently published the findings from a study in which they investigated whether occupational stress is associated with innovation.

The researchers in the present study surveyed 1,767 employees from health care organizations and the metal and retail industries. The results showed that increases in stress are associated with decreases in innovation. Furthermore, stress was distinguishable from the other factors related to innovation and it influenced the relations between innovation and the other factors related to innovation.

Although the present study was not designed to determine whether occupational stress influences innovation in the workplace or visa versa, it nonetheless demonstrates that the two are related. Evidently, an innovative work environment is not a high-stress work environment.

Source: Länsisalmi, H., & Kivimäki, M. (1999). Factors associated with innovative climate: What is the role of stress? Stress Medicine, 15, 203-213.