The Role of Stress in Illness

Robert A. Scott

in Miracle Cures

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780520262751
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520946200 | DOI:
The Role of Stress in Illness

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This chapter examines four social factors directly related to the onset, course, and outcome of illnesses in contemporary populations. Research demonstrates that two of them—stress and emotions—are directly related to the onset of illness, and two others—shame and social isolation—can exacerbate existing illnesses. Due to the lack of clinical data for the medieval period, the chapter cannot say that these factors were singly or collectively responsible for anyone's illness. However, what is known about the circumstances of daily living and the role that social, situational, and psychological factors play in illness suggests that they contributed significantly to high rates of morbidity. One widely accepted hypothesis posits that stress increases the body's allostatic load. Allostasis refers to the body's tendency to increase or decrease the rate of certain vital functions to achieve a new steady state in response to external challenges.

Keywords: social factors; illnesses; stress; emotions; shame; social isolation; morbidity; allostasis

Chapter.  2059 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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