Date of Award

1987

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

The role of stress in the development and exacerbation of physical symptoms has long been a topic of interest. The present investigation attempted to establish if there is an association between the irritants and demands of everyday life--termed minor stressors--and health. In order to investigate the influence of minor stressors on health, it appears necessary (for a number of reasons discussed in the text) to account for the influence of major life events on health and on minor stressors. Both major and minor stressful events were assessed using two approaches: simple frequency counts, and a subjective weighting approach which attempts account for the individual's perception of the stress of the events. One hundred eighty four subjects from the community volunteered to participate in the project. They completed the daily stress measure for seven days. At the end of this week they completed an inventory of major stressors, and an inventory of minor physical symptoms. The data were analyzed using multiple regression and path analytic techniques. The results of both measurement approaches yielded similar relations among major life events, minor stressors, and health. Further, the use of the subjectively weighted measurement approach did not add significantly to the association between stress and health. It is argued that there is little empirical support for, and a number of conceptual arguments against the use of such subjectively weighted measurement approaches. The results revealed an association between major life events and minor stressful events, giving some support to the argument that minor stressful events should be investigated in the context of major stressful events. Higher levels of both major and minor stressful events were associated with increasing numbers of physical symptoms. Further, minor stressful events were associated with physical symptoms even when the influence of major stressful events was controlled statistically. Although the results are not inconsistent with a causal model, the threats to causal interpretations are discussed. It is concluded that the role of minor stressful events in causing or increasing disorders is worthy of further empirical investigation.

Pages

121

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