Psychological stress and indices of physical health



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The present study investigated the relationship between internal and external psychological stress indices and their relationship to physical health symptoms for individuals over a seven-week period of time. Internal psychological stress indices included a measure of experienced arousal, as well as measures of experienced specific affect states of happiness, anger, fear, and depression. External psychological stress indices included a measure of magnitude of life stress events occurring two years prior to the study, as well as a measure of the magnitude of life stress events occurring during the seven-week period of the study. The fifteen subjects in the sample recorded their affect states and the frequency of occurrence of those physical health symptoms most closely associated with the onset of physical disease four times a day for seven weeks. It was found that for ten of the fifteen subjects, there was a significant relationship between affect states and physical functioning. It was also found that while for particular individuals there is a specific pattern of covariance between affect responding and physical health symptoms, that on a daily basis over the seven-week time period, a general pattern of covariance does not emerge for those individuals for whom a significant relationship exists. In addition, it was found that over a seven-week time period, the accumulation of physical health symptoms was associated with an accumulation of fear experiences, independently of other internal or external psychological stress indices. The relationship between previously and concomitantly occurring life stress events and non-specific affect states was also examined. These results were evaluated in terms of their descriptive nature and recommendations were made for further research.