How does stress affect health?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 9,478
    National Research Center for Women and Families president Dr. Diana Zuckerman explains the impact stress can have on parents’ health.

    Host: How does stress affect health?

    Dr. Diana Zuckerman: There is all kinds of stress in our lives and some of it is physical stress but most of it is mental stress and as animals, part of being under stress is one of two things happen. You get a lot of adrenalin and other hormones that make you either want to fight or run away. So that's sort of a natural instinct that our ancestors had, when they were confronted by a large scary animal for example. The problem is we still react the same way, when we are confronted with a stressful situation at work, that isn't a large scary animal but is a deadline of something that's due tomorrow or you have to give a speech in public and you are frightened of it or whatever it is. So, what happens is the stress, this mental stress takes it toll on us physically and for those of us, who are under a lot of stress all the time, it's this continuous exposure to hormones and other chemicals in our bodies that aren't good for us and it wares us down. We are much more susceptible to viruses, to get a cold or the flu. We are much less able to cope with exposures. So for example, a flu shot given to elderly people to help prevent them from getting the flu is much more effective, if the person who gets it is not under stress. If they are stressed out because you are taking care of a spouse, for example who is very ill, those people will be -- their flu shots from work as well. So, we have some very clear evidence that stress affects our health by making us more susceptible to illness. Less able to cope with illness and just we don't know if it can lead to things like Cancer but we do know that it can make us more susceptible to viruses. So, being able to cope with stress can help you stay healthier as well.