Course: PSYC*1000 (DE)
Professor: Harvey Marmurek
Schedule: Summer, 2012
Textbook: Psychology – Tenth Edition in Modules authored by David G. Myers
Textbook ISBN: 9781464102615
Module 39: Promoting Health
Coping with Stress
In what ways do people cope with stress, and how does a perceived lack of control affect health?
We address some stressors directly, with problem-focused coping. For example, if our impatience leads
to a family fight, we may go directly to that family member to work things out.
We turn to emotion-focused coping when we cannot – or believe we cannot – change a situation. We
may search for relief from stress by confiding in friends and reaching out for support and comfort. Emotion-focused
strategies can move us toward better long-term health, as when we see emotional distance from a damaging
relationship or keep busy with hobbies to avoid thinking about an old addiction. Sometimes a problem-focused
strategy more effectively reduces stress and promotes long-term health and satisfaction.
[Health consequences of a loss of control: The “executive” rat at the left can switch off the tail shock by turning the
wheel. Because it has control over the shock, it is no more likely to develop ulcers than is the unshocked rat on the
right. The “subordinate” rat in the centre receives the same shocks as the executive rat, but with no control over the
shocks. It is, therefore, more likely to develop ulcers.]
Perceiving a loss of control, we become more vulnerable to ill health. Elderly nursing home residents who
have little perceived control over their activities tend to decline faster and die sooner than do those given more
control. Workers able to control their work environment (furniture placement, etc.) experience less stress. In one
study of 843 grave markers in an old graveyard in Glasgow, Scotland, those with the costliest, highest pillars
(indicating the most affluence) tended to lived the longest. Likewise, those living in Scottish regions with the least
overcrowding and unemployment have the greatest longevity. With higher economic status comes reduced risks of
low birth weight, infant mortality, smoking, and violence.
Losing control provokes an outpouring of stress hormones.
To cope with stress, we tend to use problem-focused strategies when we feel in control of our world, and emotion-
focused strategies when we believe we cannot change a situation.
Optimism and Health
What are the links among basic outlook on life, social support, stress, and health?
Outlook – what we expect from the world. Pessimists expect things to go badly and optimists expect
Among those in the lowest optimism quartile, 57% died, as did only 30% of the top optimism quartile.
The number of deaths among those with a bleak, hopeless outlook was more than double that found among their
optimistic counterparts. 54% of nuns expressing few positive emotions had died as had only 24% of those most
Social support – feeling liked and encouraged by intimate friends and family – promotes both happiness
and health. Close relationships have predicted health. Those with ample social connections had survival rates about
50% greater than those with meagre connections. One 7-decades-long study found that at age 50, healthy aging is
better predicted by a good marriage than by a low cholesterol level.
Social support calms us and reduces blood pressure and stress hormones. Supportive family and friends
help buffer threats. Social support fosters stronger immune functioning. Close relationships give us an opportunity
for ‘open heart therapy,’ a chance to confide painful feelings. Suppressing emotions can be detrimental to physical
Some research finds that people with companionable pets are less likely than those without pets to visit their
doctors after stressful events. How can the health benefits from social support shed light on this finding?
Feeling social support – even from a pet – might calm people, and lead to lower levels of stress hormones and
blood pressure. Reducing Stress
Having a sense of control, developing more optimistic thinking, and building social support can help us experience
less stress and thus improve our health. People who are upbeat about themselves and their future also tend to
enjoy health-promoting social ties.
How effective is aerobic exercise as a way to manage stress and improve well-being?
Aerobic exercised is sustain, oxygen-consuming exercise that increases heart and lung fitness. Adds quantity of life
(about 2 years) and quality (more energy, better mood). Fights heart disease by strengthening heart, increasing
bloodflow, keeping blood vessels open, lowering blood pressure and blood pressure reaction. Inactivity leaves us
susceptible to more than 20 chronic diseas