The effects of chronic stress on overall health

by | Apr 10, 2023 | Health

Stress is a major public health issue, and while many cite work as a primary cause, socioeconomic issues in 2022 contributed to a spike in stress levels, demonstrating that potential stressors are abundant. According to the 2022 Stress in America Survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), issues affecting the supply chain were the cause of stress for 81% of respondents, while 87% reported stress due to the rising cost of living caused by inflation. This is a notable increase of almost 30% from the previous year. Stress is more than just an inconvenience. While the human body can handle stress in small doses, chronic stress can cause various problems affecting different parts of the body.

Musculoskeletal system

Stress can trigger muscle tension, which can cause a host of problems, including tension-type headaches and migraines associated with chronic muscle tension in the shoulders, neck, and head. Musculoskeletal pain in the lower back and upper extremities is also commonly linked to work-related stress.

Respiratory system

Stress can also impact the respiratory system, causing shortness of breath and rapid breathing. For individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD, these symptoms can worsen existing breathing problems.Chronic stress can also contribute to long-term problems affecting the heart and blood vessels, which are essential for providing nourishment and oxygen to the body’s organs. A consistent and ongoing spike in heart rate due to long-term ongoing stress can increase your risk for various cardiovascular problems, including hypertension, heart attack, and stroke.

Cardiovascular system

Stress can also affect the gastrointestinal system. The gut has hundreds of millions of neurons that are in constant communication with the brain, which is why feelings of nervousness or anxiety often produce the sensation of butterflies in the stomach. When you’re dealing with chronic stress, it can affect communication between the gut and brain. This can lead to pain, bloating, and other discomfort in the gut.

Stress is a public health problem that affects people from all walks of life. If you’re experiencing excessive levels of stress, it’s a good idea to contact your physician and visit apa.org for more information.