The Negative Health Impact of Stress

Stress has become a common refrain across both our personal and professional lives. In fact, it makes sense when we consider the local and global issues that dominate news headlines in terms of economic, health, political and climate uncertainty. It’s a strange time for all of us as individuals and communities whether in our family units or entire countries.

Stress: A Mental & Physical Health Crisis

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as holistic saying, ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ These dynamic factors that make up our overall state of health are all affected when we’re experiencing stress. Moreover, in recent times, peaking levels of stress consistently run parallel to a global work culture that’s in a state of flux with many people working longer hours and finding it impossible to ‘switch off’ at home. Even with the available tips for still managing our daily workload and sheltering in place safely, this is a time where overwhelming feelings of panic and uncertainty manifest as stress to affect everything from our sleep through to our immune system.

Stress In A COVID-19 World

In light of COVID-19, stress is absolutely a major civic issue with the Washington Post covering a report of polled citizens who shared that their current stress levels are higher than during the 2009 economic recession. Combine this with the fact that prior to the events of 2020, WHO had already gone so far as to call stress the global health epidemic of the 21st century and it raises the question: with the global pandemic intensifying public health issues, how does this affect our long-term health?

In the United States Forbes said, in an article pre-dating COVID-19, that a workplace mental health crisis is seen across many industries. With the points below, and considering the impact of stress on our mental and physical health as well as mortality, these are some important statistics and facts to consider in the overall scope of how understand our holistic wellbeing:

In the long-term, chronic stress is when your stress system is continually activated over a long period of time. This overuse can contribute to extra pressure being put on the body and while increasing the risk of certain illnesses. Research has also found links between chronic stress over extended periods and illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease including hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders, and insomnia. As we look ahead to the second half of 2020 and beyond, managing our health and especially risk factors like stress remains a fundamental requirement for all people. Academic Erik Gonzalez-Mulé says,

“COVID-19 might be causing more mental health issues, so it’s particularly important that work not exacerbate those problems. This includes managing and perhaps reducing employee demands, being aware of employees’ cognitive capability to handle demands and providing employees with autonomy are even more important than before the pandemic began.”

Article shared thanks to Aris Grigoriou at Study Medicine Europe with the goal to help more people learn about their personal health and risk factors to overall wellbeing.