College Essay Examples

What are the Effects of Stress on Physical Health? Essay Sample

According to Kadry, Kbaysi, Al-Safadi, and Al-Bakri (2018, p. 353), surveys indicate that 40% of workers in the US admit to having experienced stress, and a quarter of this population cite work as their lives’ biggest source of stress. Stress is a biological response initiated by any intrinsic or extract stimulus. Depending on the severity, timing, and type of stimulus, the stress response can be associated with various effects on the body such as alterations in its normal functioning, life-threatening conditions, and even death. Usually, stress causes many diseases’ pathophysiological complications and can act as an aggravating factor. While stress is a biological response to a stimulus, it can have detrimental effects on physical health. These include coronary heart disease, immunological disease, muscle tension, and an interference with the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system.

Stress can affect the effective functioning of the immune system

Stress can affect the effective functioning of the immune system, and this can contribute to immunological diseases. According to Yaribeygi et al. (2017, p. 1062), there has been a prevailing attitude over the years regarding the relationship of stress and immune system response. When most people are under stress, their immune system becomes impaired, and this exposes them to frequent illnesses. According to Mills, Karagiannis, and Zulch (2014, p. 529), chronic stress in humans is associated with immune response suppression. It explains why people that are under stress are highly likely to get immunological diseases. Numerous studies that have been conducted on the relationship between stress and the immune system have found that stress affects the immune system’s functioning (Yaribeygi et al., 2017, p. 1062). Stress is also known for the modification of the secretion of hormones associated with the efficient functioning of the immune system. It explains why people that have experienced stress over a long period struggle with immunological diseases. Therefore, the role that stress plays in the development of immunological diseases has made it associated with harmful effects on physical health.

Stress can exacerbate existing medical conditions in the body. According to O’Donovan, Doody, and Lyons (2013, p. 970), stress plays an essential role in worsening situations for medical problems a person may have as it leads to altruistic overload is known for wearing and tearing of the body. With such a situation, a person becomes prone to illnesses, and a common one is coronary heart disease. Altruistic overload is associated with the body’s over-arousal of its immune system, and this often leads to damages of arteries and organs. Due to this, people who perform high-stress jobs struggle with coronary heart disease as the stress causes damage to their arteries. Stuts-Kolehmainen and Sinha (2014, p. 83) agree that stress is linked to coronary heart disease. According to them, there is a relationship between psychological stress and physical health outcomes. Many studies conducted in the past have established that maladaptive behaviors or health practices play an essential role in the mediation of the relationship. In particular, Stuts-Kolehmainen and Sinha (2014, p. 83) state that there is a strong implication of stress in coronary heart disease’s pathogenesis. It means that people that suffer from stress over a long period are likely to develop this disease.

Stress makes body muscles to be on a constant state of guardedness as they tense up a reflex reaction. A person with chronic stress is likely to have his or her muscles in a state of guardedness, and long periods of muscles in this state encourage stress-related disorders and other body reactions. Examples are the migraine headache and tension-type headache that are often due to chronic muscle tension in the upper body; specifically, the head, neck, and shoulders. Musculoskeletal lower back pain is also linked to a constant state of muscle tension in this region of the body, which is due to stress. According to Lundberg et al. (1999, p. 254), the study involving female workers in a supermarket established a connection between muscle tension and stress. It means that when people experience stressful events, their bodies react by tensing up muscles. Stress can lead to the development of stress-related musculoskeletal conditions as it puts the body’s muscles in a constant state of tension. It is due to this reason that people suffering from stress are often advised to engage in therapies and relaxation techniques that help reduce muscle tension.

Stress interferes with the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system

Stress interferes with the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system. According to Yaribeygi et al. (2017, p. 1063), stress has not only stimulatory effects on the cardiovascular system but also inhibitory effects. They state that numerous studies have been conducted to substantiate the claim that stress has an indirect effect on the functioning of the cardiovascular system. Some of the effects of stress on the cardiovascular system include increased heart rate, narrowing of veins, and vasodilation in arteries. In some instances, chronic stress stimulates the limbic system, and this can lead to a reduced heart rate or stopping of the heart in some cases (Yaribeygi et al., 2017, p. 1063). The interference caused by stress to the cardiovascular system can be detrimental to individuals with respiratory conditions. For instance, when rapid breathing occurs, it causes an increased heart rate, which can exacerbate breathing complications for people with respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis and asthma. Therefore, stress can interfere with the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system, closely linked to the respiratory system.


In conclusion, stress has a negative effect on physical health as it is closely linked to immunological diseases, muscle tension, coronary heart disease, and an interference with the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system. While it is a biological response to a stimulus, stress contributes to the wear and tear of the body. It weakens the immune system, hence exposing the body to various immunological conditions. Stress also leads to the over-arousal of the immune system, and this often leads to damages of arteries, a precursor for the coronary heart disease.


Kadry, S., Kbaysi, M., Al-Safadi, S., & Al-Bakri, D. (2018). Stress causes and outcomes statistical analysis. Biometrics & Biostatistics International Journal, 7(4), 353-358. doi: 10.15406/bbij.2018.07.00229

Lundberg, U., Melin, B., Ekstrom, M., Dohns, I. E., Sandsjo, L., Palmerud, G., Kadefors, R., & Parr, D. (1999). Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 4(3), 245-255. doi: 10.1037/1076-8998.4.3.245

Mills, D., Karagiannis, C., & Zulch, H. (2014). Stress-Its effects on health and behavior. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 44(3), 525–541.

O’Donovan, R., Doody, O., & Lyons, R. (2013). The effects of stress on health and its implications for nursing. British Journal of Nursing, 22(16), 969-973. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2013.22.16.969

Stuts-Kolehmainen, M. A., & Sinha, R. (2014). The effects of stress on physical activity and exercise. Sports Medicine, 44(1), 81-121. doi: 10.1007/s40279-013-0090-5

Yaribeygi, H., Panahi, Y., Sahraei, H., Johnston, T. P., & Sahebkar, A. (2017). The impact of stress on body function: A Review. EXCLI Journal, 16, 1057-1072.  doi: 10.17179/excli2017-480

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Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.
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