Virtually all people experience stressful events or situations that overwhelm our natural coping mechanisms. And although some people are biologically prone to stress, many outside factors influence susceptibility as well.
Studies indicate that some people are more vulnerable to the effects of stress than others. The list includes older adults; women in general, especially working mothers and pregnant women; less-educated people; divorced or widowed people; people experiencing financial strains such as long-term unemployment; people who are the targets of discrimination; uninsured and under-insured people; and people who simply live in cities all seem to be particularly susceptible to health-related stress problems.
People who are less emotionally stable or have high anxiety levels tend to experience certain events as more stressful than healthy people do. And the lack of an established network of family and friends predisposes us to stress-related health problems such as heart disease and infections. Caregivers, children and medical professionals are also frequently found to be at higher risk for stress-related disorders.
Job-related stress is particularly likely to be chronic because it is such a large part of life. Stress reduces a worker’s effectiveness by impairing concentration, causing sleeplessness and increasing the risk of illness, back problems, accidents and lost time. At its worst extremes, stress that places a burden on our hearts and circulation can often be fatal. The Japanese have a word for sudden death due to overwork: “karoushi.”