41 Interesting Facts about Stress

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published February 28, 2017
  • Stress has been called “the silent killer” and can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pain, and an irregular heartbeat.[4]
  • While it is a myth that stress can turn hair gray, stress can cause hair loss. In fact, telogen effluvium (hair loss) can begin up to three months after a stressful event.[9]
  • In 2009, the top most stressful jobs were a surgeon, commercial airline pilot, photojournalist, advertising account executive, and real estate agent. The least stressful jobs were actuary, dietitian, astronomer, systems analyst, and software engineer.[11]
  • The top three stressful cities in America are Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; and New York, New York.[8]
  • Stress alters the neurochemical makeup of the body, which can affect the maturation and release of the human egg. Stress can also cause the fallopian tubes and uterus to spasm, which can affect implantation. Stress in men can affect sperm count and motility and can cause erectile dysfunction. In fact, stress may account for 30% of all infertility problems.[2]
  • Stress balls work by massaging acupuncture points in the hand
  • Chinese stress balls (Baoding balls) were created during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) in Baoding, China. Originally made of iron, the balls are thought to relieve stress because they touch pressure or acupuncture points on the hand.[9]
  • Stress can make acne worse. Researchers say stress-related inflammation rather than a rise is sebum (the oily substance in skin) is to blame.[16]
  • The stress hormone cortisol not only causes abdominal fat to accumulate, but it also enlarges individual fat cells, leading to what researchers call “diseased” fat.[4]
  • Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, liver cirrhosis, and suicide.[6]
  • The stress of caring for a disabled spouse increases the risk of stroke substantially.[15]
  • Chronic stress can impair the developmental growth in children by lowering the production of growth hormone from the pituitary gland.[13]
  • A 2009 CNN poll reveals that the number one reason for stress in most countries is money. The countries most stressed about money are Malaysia, China, Singapore, and the United States. The countries least stressed about money are Russia, France, and Italy.[1]
  • The term “stress” derives from the Latin stringere (to draw tight).[9]
  • Stress causes capillaries to close, which restricts bleeding if a flesh wound should occur.[6]
  • A 2003 study found that women with moderate levels of stress were at lower risk for suicide than those women who had very high or very low levels of stress.[9]
  • The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.

    - William James

  • Pupils dilate (mydriasis) during stress much the same way they dilate in response to attraction: to gather more visual information about a situation.[6]
  • Chronic stress floods the brain with powerful hormones that are meant for short-term emergency situations. Chronic exposure can damage, shrink, and kill brain cells.[15]
  • Scientists suggest that stress is part of the evolutionary drive because it has enabled humans to survive. Specifically, stress temporarily increases awareness and improves physical performance.[14]
  • Stress makes the blood “stickier,” in preparation for an injury. Such a reaction, however, also increases the probability of developing a blood clot.[4]
  • Chronic stress increases cytokines, which produce inflammation. Exposure to constant inflammation can damage arteries and other organs.[9]
  • Stress can alter blood sugar levels, which can cause mood swings, fatigue, hyperglycemia, and metabolic syndrome, a major risk factor for heart attack and diabetes.[6]
  • Laughing lowers stress hormones (like cortisol, epinephrine, and adrenaline) and strengthens the immune system by releasing health-enhancing hormones.[15]
  • Laughter is a powerful stress reducer
  • Chronic stress worsens irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that irritates the large intestine and causes constipation, cramping, and bloating.[9]
  • Peptic ulcers are caused by the H.pylori bacteria or the use of NSAIDS—not stress. However, stress can exacerbate ulcers and keep them from healing.[9]
  • Chronic stress decreases the body’s immune system’s response to infection and can affect a person’s response to immunizations.[13]
  • Studies show that HIV-infected men are more likely to progress to AIDS if they are under high stress than those with lower levels of stress.[13]
  • Stress can increase the ability of chemicals to pass the blood-brain barrier, which shields neurons from some poisons, viruses, toxins, and other fluctuations in normal blood chemistry.[12]
  • Acoustic stress (caused by loud noises) can trigger an episode of Long QT Syndrome (LQTS), a disorder of the heart’s electrical system. LGTS is estimated to cause as many as 3,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.[12]
  • Research has shown that dark chocolate reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and other fight-flight hormones. Additionally, cocoa is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids.[15]
  • Eating moderate levels of dark chocolate reduces stress hormone levels
  • Young people from military families who have a deployed parent report higher levels of stress and emotional problems than other adolescents and teens.[7]
  • Stress increases the risk of pre-term labor and intrauterine infection. Additionally, chronic levels of stress place a fetus at greater risk for developing stress-related disorders and affect the fetus’s temperament and neurobehavioral development.[5]
  • Post-traumatic stress physically changes children’s brains; specifically, stress shrinks the hippocampus, a part of the brain that stores and retrieves memories.[13]
  • Stress can result in more headaches as a result of the body rerouting blood flow to other parts of the body.[9]
  • The hyper-arousal of the body’s stress response system can lead to chronic insomnia.[9]
  • In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Lady Percy’s description of her battle-worn husband, Harry Hotspur, is surprisingly similar to the symptoms of actual post-traumatic syndrome, such as feeling estranged from others, difficulty sleeping, exhibiting an exaggerated startle, dysphoria, and strong anxiety.[13]
  • Chronic low-level noise and low-frequency noise below the threshold of human hearing provoke stress hormones that can interfere with learning and can also elevate blood pressure, degrade the immune system, and increase aggression.[12]
  • When cells shrink due to exposure to stress hormones, they disconnect from each other, which contributes to depression.[15]
  • Achilles complains of feeling emotionally “numb” or “dead” and expresses suicidal thoughts and rage, a sign of PTSD
  • An early record of post-traumatic stress syndrome dates from the eighth century B.C. in Homer’s Iliad when Achilles suffers severe battle stress in the Trojan War. Achilles complains of feeling emotionally “numb” or “dead” and expresses suicidal thoughts and rage.[13]
  • Men are more likely than women to develop certain stress-related disorders, including hypertension, aggressive behavior, and abuse of alcohol and drugs.[15]
  • Stress creates hormonal changes in the human body that can decrease libido and sex response. However, the BBC reports that penetrative sex (as opposed to other types of sex, such as masturbation) decreased stress hormones while those who had no sex had the highest blood pressure.[10]
  • Extreme or sudden emotional trauma can lead to “broken heart syndrome”(BHS), or stress cardiomyopathy (severe heart muscle weakness). This condition occurs rapidly, and usually in women. In Japan, BHS is called “octopus trap cardiomyopathy” because the left ventricle balloons out in a peculiar shape.[3]
References

1Barthelemy, Claire. “Poll: Money Worries World’s Greatest Cause of Stress.” CNN. September 30, 2009. Accessed: January 28, 2010.

2Bouchez, Colette. “Stress and Infertility.” WebMD. Accessed: January 31, 2010.

3Broken Heart Syndrome.” MayoClinic. Accessed: January 28, 2010.

4Chilnick, Lawrence. Heart Disease: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed. Philadelphia, PA: Perseus Books Group, 2008.

5Fetus to Mom: You’re Stressing Me Out!MedicineNet. Accessed: January 30, 2010.

6How Does Stress Affect Us?American Psychological Association. Accessed: January 30, 2010.

7Landau, Elizabeth. “Military Teens Have More Stress.” CNN. December 8, 2009. Accessed: January 29, 2010.

8Lynch, Sara. “America’s Most Stressful Cities.” Forbes. August 20, 2009. Accessed: January 27, 2010.

9McEwen, Bruce. The End of Stress as We Know It. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press, 2003.

10Sex Cuts Public Speaking Stress.” BBC. January 26, 2006. Accessed: January 30, 2010.

11Tachmincioglu, Eve. “Survey: Surgeons, Pilots Top List of Stressful Jobs.” MSNBC. November 24, 2009. Accessed: January 30, 2010.

12The Human Brain.” The Franklin Institute. Accessed: January 27, 2010.

13Van der Kolk, Bessel, et. al. Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society. New York, NY: The Guilford Press, 2007.

14Van Duyne, Sara. Stress and Anxiety-Related Disorders. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2003.

15Wallenstein, Gene. Mind, Stress, and Emotion: The New Science of Mood. Boston, MA: Commonwealth Press, 2003.

16Warner, Jennifer. “Stress Makes Teen Acne Worse.” WebMD. March 7, 2002. Accessed: January 30, 2010.

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