Tag: health

The Impact of Stress on Chronic Illness

Chronic Illness in the Modern World

The leading causes of mortality and morbidity in the Western world, since the beginning of the twentieth century, are no longer infectious diseases, but chronic illnesses including diseases of the heart, cerebrovascular diseases, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and diabetes, which develop slowly over an extended period of time and tend to affect people across the lifespan disrupting their quality of life. It is estimated that one in five employees experience high levels of stress and £3.7 billion is lost, in terms of production, each year as a result.

Stress and stress-related diseases, as Vollrath points out, are the health scourge of modern times and are one of the reasons why health psychology, the purpose of which is to explain the psychological factors which give rise to the health compromising behaviours which contribute to the aetiology of such illnesses with a view to preventing them, has been one of the fastest growing disciplines in psychology since the 1980s.


Chronic Stress

If stress is chronic, in the sense that it is ongoing and longer lasting than acute stress, it can lead to longer term disturbance of the behavioural and biological processes contributing to disease development. Hans Selyes research in 1956 &1976 suggested that physical reactions to stress involve three phases which he termed the general adaptation syndrome: the alarm reaction, similar to the fight-or-flight syndrome which involves change in heart rate, respiration and perspiration as the body attempts to regulate its temperature; resistance, which occurs when stressors persist and the body works hard to produce the physical changes needed to cope with them including the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol; and exhaustion, which occurs when resources have been depleted and organ systems that were weak in the first place, or heavily involved in the resistance process, become associated with wear and tear.

Vulnerable Groups

Research by Kiecolt-Glaser et al. who are particularly at risk of experiencing chronic stress responses, have found an increased vulnerability to disease as a result of immune changes. Similarly, Steptoe et al, found higher levels of peri-natal mortality, childhood accidents, diabetes and CHD and cancers among those in lower socioeconomic groups, where chronic stress is more common.

Stress & Cancer Progression

Although caution is advised where drawing conclusions from studies into the relationship between stress and coping and cancer progression, due to mixed evidence, some human studies, such as that by Rosch in 1996, do show that stress influences tumour cell mutation by slowing down the cell repair process as a potential result of hormonal activation and the release of glucocorticoids or the production of lymphocytes. A study by Palesh et al, of women who had metastatic or recurrent breast cancer tumours, also found that those who had reported traumatic life events, experienced a significantly shorter disease-free intervals.

Preventative & Treatment Interventions

While multiple variables are involved in the onset of chronic illness, stress, if not a contributing factor, certainly has an exacerbating effect. As such, health psychology interventions which reduce the impact of stressors and help individuals to cope with stressors are of key importance in both preventing the onset of chronic illness and encouraging treatment adherence and as a means of supplementing pharmacotherapy treatments with a view to promoting more positive health outcomes for those who have already been diagnosed.

The Increase of Allergy Illnesses: The Rise of Asthma and Eczema in Modern Society

This has triggered much study on the relationship between the environment and health and illnesses caused by modern industrialized living. The impact of allergies has resulted in new diagnostic procedures and therapeutic treatments and it has created a new market for the pharmaceuticals and food industries. Prescription and over-the-counter anti-allergy medications are one of the most common drugs purchased.

Allergies and Asthma Increase in Industrialized Society

Allergies and related diseases have become a global problem with the progress of industrialization, pollutions pumped into the air and the increased use of chemicals in both the developed and developing world. By the mid-1900s, asthma had become an epidemic among children living in many major North American cities and there were rising rates of hay fever, asthma and eczema in most industrialized areas. A wide variety of immunological sensitivities continue to emerge as scientists and clinicians struggle to understand the causes and mechanisms of allergic and autoimmune reactions. Disorders involving food intolerances are also steeply rising as our food becomes more and more processed and laden with additives. Food and cosmetic companies have used the public awareness to market items in sometimes less than accurate methods.

Increase in Mortality Due to Asthma in Children

Preventable deaths from asthma occur due to a lack of awareness of the seriousness of the disease and its triggers, particularly in children. Since 1960, rates of deaths caused by asthma has risen steadily in all age groups, though it is highest among children. By 1966, in the US had become the fourth most common cause of death among children, after vehicle accidents, cancer and respiratory infections. Some researchers linked the increase in cases of deaths due asthma among children to the popularity of the medication corticosteroids, which suppresses the immune system, nine years earlier.

Although not all asthma is caused by allergies, the rise in asthma caused doctors to reconsider the severity and nature of allergic diseases at that time. In Western Europe, the prevalence of asthma, hay fever, allergic dermatitis and drug allergies doubled in the early 1980s. Comparisons between countries is difficult due to varying health care systems and socio-economic organization, similar patterns of asthma and other allergic diseases are reported in diverse areas of the world from Nigeria to Japan and Kuwait.

Recap: Hell’s Kitchen Season Six, Week Seven: Down One Member, the Blue Team Tries to Even Things Out

The September 1 episode picks up immediately following the unfortunate elimination of Robert, a promising contestant who left Hell’s Kitchen in season five due to health concerns and who just couldn’t get back in the groove after returning in season six.

After returning to the dorms, the men are quite vocal about the decision to keep Andy over Robert, and none of them feels like Andy will stick around much longer. The women express similar sentiments about Suzanne, who is more irritating than incompetent.

Hell’s Kitchen Taste Challenge

The following morning, a familiar competition returns to Hell’s Kitchen that challenges the contestants’ palettes – the taste test. One member from both the blue and red kitchens straps on a blindfold and, using only their taste buds, attempts to identify four different foods with each correct answer netting their team a point.

Van and Ariel face off first, and the women jump out to a two to one lead after Van cannot identify venison, pecans or cream cheese. Dave struggles during his turn as well, and after round two the red team leads four to two. The men still trail by two points going into the final round, and it’s up to the nearly departed Andy to save his team. He starts off on the right foot, identifying lychee nuts and pulling the men to within one. However, Andy misidentifies avocado and tuna, sending his team to the kitchen for a day’s worth of making sorbet and unloading trucks.

As part of their reward, the ladies head off to a bizarre restaurant where they eat dinner in total darkness (shown via infrared camera), while the men’s sustenance comes in the form of roast duck and scallops – thrown into a blender and served in shake form.

A Completed Dinner Service, Elimination

During dinner service, both teams get appetizers out in a timely fashion. For the first time ever in Hell’s Kitchen, a palette-cleansing sorbet is served between courses by a member from each team. Being short one chef already, the blue team struggles to maintain the rhythm established early on once Kevin is sent to the dining room on sorbet duty.

When Kevin and Ariel (who was also serving sorbets) return, both teams move on to entrees. The guys can’t seem to get things going again as they stand around looking confused, at which point Chef Ramsay orders the men to start listening and work together. The red team gets a similar lecture about working together when they suffer from a lack of communication that results in a dish of raw lamb being sent out. Sabrina, working the meat station, is ordered by Chef Ramsay to leave the kitchen and eat said undercooked lamb, and she complies without argument.

Tennille takes over the meat station and things pick back up in the red kitchen. However, Suzanne spoils the jovial mood when an entire table’s orders must be restarted because she can’t cook sea bass fast enough to complete the table. When Suzanne finally sends fish to the pass, it is undercooked, so she does what any good chef would – she blames it on someone else (that someone else being Amanda).

The closest the blue team comes to disaster is running out of mashed potatoes three tickets too soon. Chef Ramsay acknowledges the blue team’s dominance by declaring the ladies the losing team. Tennille – who has been nominated for elimination on numerous occasions – is now given the task of selecting two teammates to potentially go home.

Tennille selects Suzanne and Sabrina for their weak performances during dinner service. Chef Ramsay, in typical fashion, tells a third person – Amanda – to step forward as well. Sabrina pleads her case, and Chef Ramsay says he is looking for consistency but Sabrina has only been “consistently crap.” Ultimately, Suzanne and Sabrina get back in line while Amanda takes off her jacket and leaves Hell’s Kitchen.

Travellers’ Diarrhoea: Advice on How to Avoid Food Poisoning on Vacation

Travellers’ diarrhoea (often simply called ‘food poisoning’) is the most common medical problem in holidaymakers. Changes in diet, or even the stress of the journey, can alter bowel habit, but most cases result from an infection of the intestine acquired through ingesting contaminated food or water. The usual cause is a bacterium, though viruses, protozoa and parasitic worms are occasionally responsible.

Symptoms and Risk Factors

The diarrhoea usually begins within the first week of the holiday, though the incubation period can vary depending on the infection. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, flatulence and bloating.

The risk of developing travellers’ diarrhoea is greatest in residents of Europe, North America or Australia who visit Latin America, Africa, the Middle East or Asia. It is less common in holidaymakers who stay and dine in five-star hotels and more common in those who travel overland and eat from local street vendors.

The risk is also increased in the young and the elderly, in people who have diabetes or an existing problem with their immune system, and in those taking certain drugs. If you have any concerns at all about intestinal infections abroad, and particularly if your group includes children or seniors, be sure to speak to your doctor well before you leave for your holiday.

Reducing the Risk of Travellers’ Diarrhoea

  • Avoid uncooked fruit and vegetables that you have not peeled yourself. Do not eat salads, unless you know for certain that they were washed in sterilized water.
  • Use bottled water for drinking and cleaning teeth, and avoid ice in drinks.
  • Water purification tablets can be used if you have no bottled water. These kill most bacteria, though the cysts of parasites may survive. To be certain that water is clean, boil it for ten minutes.
  • Avoid eating reheated food that has been left standing without refrigeration.
  • Avoid undercooked meat and seafood, unpasteurized milk and dairy products, and mayonnaise.
  • Always wash your hands before eating or preparing food, to avoid transferring organisms from fingers to mouth.
  • If you are camping, take particular care with personal hygiene and always make sure your cookware is clean before use.
  • Take care not to swallow water when swimming in pools or the sea, and especially in freshwater lakes.

Managing the Symptoms

In an otherwise healthy adult, the symptoms of travellers’ diarrhoea usually disappear within a few days without any specific treatment. If you are unfortunate enough to develop diarrhoea while on holiday, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. An oral rehydration solution may be taken, or add a spoonful of sugar to a salty drink made with Bovril or stock cubes. Be sure to use clean water for making drinks.


Eat a light, bland diet including salty soup, bread, rice or pasta. Bananas contain plenty of potassium to help replace lost salts, and yoghurt can help settle the stomach. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and cola, as these can worsen the dehydration.

Anti-diarrhoeal treatments may be bought from pharmacies and reduce the amount of diarrhoea by slowing the action of the gut. They can have side-effects, however, and may even prolong the diarrhoea because they slow the clearance of harmful bacteria from the gut. If you choose to use such a product, always follow the instructions on the packet.

If the symptoms are prolonged or severe, or you have a fever or see blood in the diarrhoea, seek medical attention at once.

Take Simple Precautions for a Happy Vacation

Travellers’ diarrhoea is so common that most people are likely to suffer from it at some time or another. You can help reduce the problem by always taking care with what you eat and drink while overseas.

Gender Violence Facilitates AIDS: Violence Against Women Needs to be Addressed

In Stephen Lewis’s talk (this talk will be cited ad nauseam in future articles, because, yes, it really was that good), he cited gender violence as a key issue that needs to be addressed in order to solve the problem of AIDS. On the surface, it would appear that gender violence plays a role by transmitting HIV directly, that is through forced intercourse. However, on further analysis, the relationship between HIV and gender violence is much more complex. The Global Coalition on Women and AIDS and the World Health Organization have released a comprehensive bulletin outlining the role of gender violence and the spread of HIV.

Aside from direct transmission, gender violence facilitates the spread of AIDS, by essentially limiting a woman’s options and self-efficacy. Violence against women, more often than not, is carried out by men that are known to the women and are, in fact, usually the partners of the women. The threat of violence looming over a relationship can hinder a woman’s ability to negotiate with her partner. Women who are abused are less likely to be able to insist upon condom use as a condition of intercourse with their partners. Such a request is often answered with further violence.

Abused woman are less likely to be able to access HIV/AIDS resources including HIV testing. A request for money or permission to get tested can result in violence as it can be construed as a sign of infidelity on the part of the woman or as an insult to the man. A woman who is faithful to her husband/partner would not need testing and to imply that the man’s extramarital activities could have garnered him HIV is not usually well-received.

To add to the risk, men who are abusive towards their partners are also more likely to engage in sexual activities outside of the relationship and to be infected with sexually transmitted infections. Abusive partners tend to be older than the women. This age difference not only sets up a situation for inequity within the relationship, but also means that these older men are likely to have more sexual experience and therefore, would be at a greater risk of HIV infection.

Gender violence also has consequences for the way a woman views herself. A history of violence predisposes a woman to make riskier sexual choices. This is particularly true for younger woman. The earlier that a woman experiences sexual violence in her life, the earlier she will become sexually active.

The consequences of gender violence are complicated and impact many parts of a woman’s life. Because of its widespread effects, gender violence must be addressed if AIDS is to be curbed. However, there is no simple answer. Solutions need to address many spheres including gender equality, the economy, and education systems among others.

Flu Vaccine Helps Prevent Sickness: Vaccination Can Thwart or Lessen Symptoms of Influenza

The influenza vaccination can decrease the risk of contracting the flu, even when the vaccine is received late in the flu season.

Old Man Winter brings snow, colder weather – and flu. The fever, aches, sore throat and cough can dampen any enthusiasm for colder weather, but the flu vaccine can help prevent this cold-weather menace.

The vaccine has been shown to be effective in preventing flu, according to the CDC. Typically, the vaccine is given in October or November, but vaccinations can be given even after December. The flu season can begin in October and go as late as May.

“Vaccination is recommended for anyone who wants to decrease their risk of getting the flu,” said Dr. Jeanne Santoli, deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Immunization Division. “And while anyone can get sick with influenza, the flu is especially serious for certain groups of people who are at high risk of complications from influenza, including infants and young children, pregnant women, children and adults with chronic medical conditions like asthma, heart disease and diabetes, and adults age 50 and older.”

Influenza, commonly called flu, is a virus spread by droplet – that is, contact with drops of an infected person’s cough or sneeze, including touching something contaminated with drops. Flu is a serious illness and can result in hospitalization or even death. Each year, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with flu, and about 36,000 people die each year from it, according to the CDC.

“Most deaths and hospitalizations are a consequence of complicating respiratory disorders, especially pneumonia,” said Dr. W. Paul McKinney in an interview with Medscape Today. McKinney is a professor of internal medicine and associate dean at the School of Public Health and Information Sciences at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Ky.

The vaccine can help prevent the illness, however. There are two types of vaccine – the shot and the nasal spray, according to the CDC. Both help prevent flu, but the nasal spray is approved only for healthy people age 2 to 49. Others, including pregnant women and infants age six months and older, should get the shot. Infants under six months old cannot receive the vaccine; Santoli recommended that their caregivers receive it to protect them.

The vaccines cause the body to develop antibodies to the flu virus. Usually, the antibodies are developed about two weeks after vaccination, according to the CDC. Then, if a person is exposed to flu, the antibodies can fight off the disease.

The Stigma of Mental Illness: Combating Harmful Misperceptions

Shunning someone because of an illness seems ludicrous in our day of promising treatments and pink ribbon campaigns. But what if your friend, neighbor, or co-worker had a mental illness? If you or someone you love has experienced mental illness, you know firsthand that society continues to stigmatize diseases of the brain.

What is stigma? The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research describes stigma as a “mark of shame or disgrace” with four components, each component building upon the previous: labeling; stereotyping; creating a division between a superior “us” and an inferior “them”; and discriminating against the person who has been labeled.

How is stigma harmful? Stigma compromises the lives of individuals with mental illnesses. Because of stigma, these individuals may face lack of acceptance, job and housing discrimination, and even verbal and physical abuse. While language and behavior can reflect negative perceptions about mental illness, stigma is not simply about using the wrong word or action. According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), at its core stigma is an issue of disrespect.

In a speech to introduce the National Mental Health Anti Stigma Campaign, SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services director Kathryn Power said, “Stigma deters individuals from seeking the care they need, and it deters the public from wanting to pay for that care.”

Nobody is immune from stigma’s effects. NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw told USA Today it took all his courage to seek help for depression in the late 1990s. “Stigma is incredibly powerful,” said Bradshaw, who is now an advocate for mental health awareness and treatment.

How can I combat stigma? Attitudes are changed one person at a time. Combating the stigma of mental illness begins with you and extends to your circle of friends and beyond.

  1. Start with yourself. Check your perceptions about mental illness. Do you attach labels and stereotypes to persons with mental illness? Are you among the two-thirds of American adults who, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mistakenly believe persons with mental illness can’t recover? Resources such as the National Mental Health Association’s Mental Health America Web site will help you become informed.
  2. Don’t equate individuals with their illnesses. For example, a person with schizophrenia is not “a schizophrenic” and is not defined by the symptoms of that condition. If you have a mental illness, remember that your diagnosis is not who you are. Inform yourself about your condition and your treatment options as you would any other diagnosis.
  3. Reach out to others. Tactfully correct others’ misconceptions about mental illness, and comment on news stories and entertainment media that perpetuate stigma. Offer support to family members or friends with mental illness. If you have a mental illness, you have the right to choose who you’ll tell. You may be encouraged to receive a compassionate and caring response. Help others understand what you want and need from them. If you decide not to confide in people you know, find others who will support you. Confiding in a mental health professional is a significant step, and he or she may refer you to a support group where you’ll meet others who understand your experience.
  4. Work for change. Anyone can be an advocate. Support legislation advancing mental health care, and write letters when you encounter negative portrayals of mental illness in the media. Join or donate to an organization that supports mental health awareness and treatment. The National Mental Health Association’s Advocacy Network is a good place to start.

The High Prevalence of Mental Illness in Prisoners

Many studies have assessed the prevalence and types of prisoner mental disorder. Two of the most comprehensive and recent are Singleton, et al (1998) in their research on ‘Psychiatric morbidity among prisoners in England and Wales’ and Stewart in his paper on ‘The Problems And Needs Of Newly Sentenced Prisoners: Results From A National Survey’. Their results are summarised below, supporting again that essentially rates are extremely high!

Recent Facts and Figures on Mental Disorders in Prison Populations

The following is an overview of mental health conditions affecting the prison population:


  • Personality Disorder: 60.5% (Singleton) and 60.0% (Stewart).
  • Psychosis: 11.25% (Singleton) and 10.0% (Stewart).
  • Neurotic Symptoms: 58.50% (Singleton) and 36% severe, 82% one or more symptom (Stewart).
  • Drinking: 49.00% (Singleton) and 36.00% (Stewart).
  • Drug Dependence: 47.25% (Singleton) and 69.00% (Stewart).

Is Appropriate Mental Health Care Available in Prisons?

The most shocking statistics however are the small number of those offenders, who actually request or receive care for their mental disorder within the criminal justice system.

Bonta, Law & Hanson, suggest in the target of the correction service, as its name suggests is to rehabilitate deviant individuals to the point where they are deemed corrected and able to re-enter society without re-offending. As part of this rehabilitation, the underlying mental health disorders must be addressed. Mentally disordered offenders should be entitled to and receive the same quality of mental health care as the general population, however Brooker and Ullman found the reality is that serious deficits remain.

Diamond et al looked at ‘Who Requests Psychological Services Upon Admission to Prison?’ and reported only a mere 11% of individuals requested help with mental health problems upon admission. Singleton et al, found equally low numbers who actually received treatment during prison with 15.5% for men and 26.5% for women. This highlights a large gap between those identified to need help and those requesting and receiving it.

Why do Mentally Disordered Individuals end up and Remain in Prison?

Shift looked at ‘Improving Media Reporting of Mental Health’ and found that deeply ingrained prejudiced attitudes within society support the view that mentally disordered individuals are unpredictable and violent. The stigma attached to mental disorder results in individuals often being overlooked, turned away or intimidated when approaching mental health services before incarceration. Subsequently many mentally disordered offenders committing only minor non-violent offences, end up in the criminal justice system due to lack of access to alternatives.

In addition the lay view that mentally disordered individuals generally will be criminal, is the even stronger view that those who have already committed a crime once, are likely to violently reoffend. This acts to keep these individuals in prisons, further increasing numbers.

However this claim seems unsubstantiated. Firstly a reminder that many mentally disordered offenders are incarcerated for non-violent crimes to begin with. In addition Bonta, Law & Hanson, suggested that mentally disordered offenders have no higher likelihood of violent recidivism when compared to rational criminals. Also Rice and Harris (1992) studied the recidivism of schizophrenic and non-schizophrenic offenders, a mental health disorder with a particularly high level of stigma and misunderstanding against it. They found those with the mental disorder were actually less likely to reoffend.

Does Mental Disorder Predict Crime?

Stigma and irrational fears act to prevent individuals seeking treatment before incarceration, and to lower the chance of release once they enter the criminal justice system. Once inside these individuals have poor access to appropriate mental health care maintaining the figures.

So are people with mental disorders really more likely to commit crimes? Or do prevalent stigma and irrational fears explain why so many individuals with mental disorders end up in the criminal justice system, and keep them there?