In our lessons, we will concentrate on core text book research into stress. You will be looking at definitions, studies, strengths and limitations. Some of those studies are quite old. However, we can’t let the topic pass without looking at some of the research being done right now. This research both gives you a better understanding of the core text book research and also gives you something to write about as commentary. There will be some time in lessons as well as home learning time to look at some questions related to this contemporary research. Find answers to these questions and add them into your skeleton notes.
a) What are the broader questions about the relationship between stress and the immune system on which Janice Kiecolt-Glaser is now focusing?
Janice Kiecolt-Glaser has spent a career investigating the relationship between stress and illness. She currently works at the University Of Ohio. You can see her web profile here. You can see what research she is doing by clicking on the Research Studies and In The Media buttons. She is part of something called P4 medicine. The four Ps are “Personalized, Predictive, Preventive, Participatory”. She spoke at a conference about P4 medicine in autumn 2012. You can watch her and some of her research colleagues speak at this video here. Watch it carefully to understand the questions researchers are interested in and what answers they are starting to find. You might want to focus on nurses and physicians in intensive care, special forces troops and NFL quarterbacks, measuring stress, buffering stress.
b) How does how we think about stressful events and what we do about them have an impact on our experience of stress?
Stress research for the last sixty years has assumed that stress is necessarily a bad thing. It has also tended to assume that if you experience stressful life events or have the wrong sort of personality, it is inevitable that you will suffer the consequences. Researchers are now starting to challenge this assumption. There may be things about our stress response which have evolved to protect us. The way we think about stress may have more of an impact on us than the events which we experience themselves.
A key researcher in this area is Kelly McGonigal. She recently gave a TED talk which you can see here. What’s great about this link is that you can go to three of the studies and read first hand the research report. You don’t need to read the whole lot. Just look at the abstracts, the summary of key points which goes at the start of a research report. If you’re having trouble viewing this talk, go to the TED website to find it. You can download it here.
Another piece of research has recently been carried out by the BBC in association with Professor Peter Kinderman at Liverpool University. I have blogged about this research back in October. Follow this link and go down to item 9 on the post for that week. You can also listen to the radio feature about this research here.
You might also want to know more about the work of Anita DeLongis whose research we look at during the lesson. Follow this link for more information.
c) Does status syndrome remain a valid theory for the effect of work on health?
Michael Marmot has spent his career in medicine understanding the links between lifestyle and health. You can listen to him talking about his work on this BBC Radio programme, “The Life Scientific”. Marmot is best known for his Whitehall studies which looked at workers in government departments. Two extracts from this programme where Marmot talks about his Whitehall studies can be heard here and here. You can read more about the Whitehall studies here. Marmot found that there was a clear link between low status at work and high risk of heart disease and other illnesses. He called this “status syndrome”. Later researchers have questioned the conclusions which Marmot has drawn from his findings. You can listen to a radio programme about this on the BBC website or follow this link. Here is the blog which Marmot runs now.
Two questions come to mind. The first is whether status syndrome remains a valid theory. This is a complex question with no clear right answer. Post a comment explaining your opinion when you have accessed all of the sources. The second, more general question is about Michael Marmot as a scientist. We spent some time at the start of the year identifying the defining features of a good scientist. In what ways do you think Michael Marmot matches these criteria? Post a comment with your views.