The Effect of Stress on Body and Health of Students

Introduction and Research Question

Currently stress is regarded as the process and condition. According to the classical concept of Hans Selye, stress is interpreted as a dynamic process of sequential development of various changes in the body during acute or chronic exposure to extreme (Selye, 1974). Modern clinical medicine and applied physiology deal with different functional states of the organism, which are developed at the impact of various stressors as a result of adaptive behavior of biological systems can be regarded as a quantitative measure of stress. In this case, the severity of the stress component is higher, the greater the degree of structural and functional reorganization of the bio-system and lower adaptive capacity of the organism. The biological significance of stress is to mobilize the body’s defenses in the initial stage of the adaptive management process.

It is known that the period of university education is the stage of person’s life that is full of stress situations. The modern student has lived on the brink of stress. In the course of study, students are faced daily with stress and fatigue caused by everyday stresses as well as acute situations often arise in the course of their studies. High mental stress, low physical activity and health culture, perception and processing of a variety of information under time pressure, the mismatch of labor tension and proper rest, especially during the sessions, intensive use of computer technology in the educational process are risk factors that provoke the emergence of emotional stress.

One and the same stressful stimulus may be differently interpreted by students. Some, such as obtaining a non-satisfactory score panic and start even more to work hard on him/herself, others consider this event an underestimation of their internal capabilities and depressed. The main factor of the stress state of the student, like all people, lies in the inner world of man: in his/her world view, values, sense of his/her inner “I”.

Stress has a negative impact on the health of the student. Falling productivity, there is tension and fatigue, and in addition, irritability. Many chronic diseases become deeper and worsen, and develop new ones. Many students choose smoking and alcohol as a way to relieve mental stress. According to statistics, the number of smokers older studying years is 2 times higher than in the first year.

The term itself “stress” has become common term for people, it is embedded in the idea of the changes in behavior, and a whole range of feelings and emotions that arise in complex situations or high risks, which have become an integral part of the modern lifestyle.

The aim of this paper is to explore and analyze the effect of stress on body and health of students. Therefore, the paper is aimed to answer on such question

  1. What effects the stress has on the body and health of students?
  2. What harm stress causes?
  3. What is the degree of stress-state students in the learning process?
  4. What are the risk factors of stress for students?

General Overview of the Topic and Literature Review

Students face with stressful situations very often. The reasons are: an intense, stressful pace of life, a large number of other people, many of whom are in a bad mood, often – more responsible and nervous. Stress is not just a nuisance: it affects the health and can lead to undesirable consequences, such as the deterioration of relations with loved ones or reduction of professional success. Experts in the field of psychology believe that stress is a reaction to their requirements. In the course of the experience of stress a person develops anxiety and fear, confusion and a sense of hopelessness (Pelletier, 1992). Statistics of the World Health Organization suggests that more than forty-five percent of all human diseases are at the heart of its development is just unaffordable stressful situations. If the experience of stress continues for a long time, the pathological phenomena in the body can become chronic, starting a serious threat to health.

Under the influence of stress on the health of a person is vulnerable to infectious and viral pathogens, immune system weakens, becomes unable to fight the disease. Intelligent over-voltage leads to the development of high blood pressure and strokes. In addition, a scientifically proven fact that stress contributes to increased risk of developing cancer, as under the influence of emotional tension in the body produces free radicals, which are risk factors for cancer.

Among other things, stress affects the body’s hormones, which negatively affect the human reproductive system. In men, the stress often develops infertility, and women disrupted menstrual cycle. There are a lot of things that the stress can cause for people, and most frequent effects are listed below.

Studies have shown that cortisol, a hormone released during stress associated with the desire to consume sugar or fatty foods. Scientists believe that the hormone bound to receptors in the brain that control food intake. Stress is associated with weight gain, all because of the small amount of food consumed during stress. However, the hormone cortisol can increase the amount of fat of the body, and increase the size of fat cells.

The relationship between stress and heart attack is not proven, but studies show that people in positions that are associated with stress, are more prone to heart attacks than those with a tranquil setting in the workplace. Stress can cause excessive excitation of the biological condition in which people do not feel sleepy. Adrenaline and cortisol can lead to vascular changes during stress, and that will be the cause of headaches and migraines. A large amount of the stress hormone, cortisol, can affect the brain’s ability to form new memories. New research proves the unconditional relationship of stress and stroke. The theory is that the increased risk of stroke due to high blood pressure and / or narrowing of the arteries.

Minor stresses associated with everyday activities, are unlikely to affect the fetus. However, severe stress, such as job loss or divorce, increases the chances of premature birth. Some studies also show that severe stress can affect the brain development of the fetus. As it is known, stress promotes blood sugar level. And the people who suffer from type 2 diabetes may notice that after a stressful situation, the level of sugar in the blood is considerably increased. Heartburn, diarrhea and other disorders of the stomach may be exacerbated by stress caused. Stressful situation can lead to high blood pressure, temporarily narrowing the blood vessels and accelerate the heart rate. Studies show that frequent stresses can reduce the amount of tissue in parts of the brain that regulate emotions and self.

Most people who suffer from the skin problem will agree that stress exacerbates the condition of the skin. Studies show that students with problem skin more prone to outbreaks of acne during exams, rather than in a more peaceful time. Stress can cause acute back pain or aggravate chronic pain. And all of this is again due to the stress hormones that cause stress in our muscles (Al-Ayadhi, 2005). Traumatic and stressful events can shorten the telomeres at the ends of the protective caps cell chromosome, which leads to premature aging of cells. Research of staff from different institutions, from the military and ending with employees of banks, shows that stress reduces efficiency and performance many times. Studies also show that people are exposed to stressful situations, sometimes making love and receive less satisfaction than those who are not under stress voltage. These are the main stress causes that the studies show and all these effects are relevant for students.

Stress is a perfectly natural human reaction to events that threaten its security. At the first sign of danger the whole body is reconstructed on a war footing. Thus terminated the digestive and internal recovery processes. In the body produces adrenaline and other hormones that are rapidly spreading oxygen throughout the body, delivering fuel into the blood needed for decisive action. In a few minutes the body gain such power and determination, which are only capable of, and it lasts as long as is necessary, for example, to hit a spear dangerous animal. With students the same happens. In the course of study they face daily stress and fatigue caused by everyday stresses as well as acute situations often arise in the course of their studies. It can be stressful during the session, a conflict with a teacher, a dissatisfaction with the estimate obtained, loaded schedule, the social discomfort in the group.

Research shows that student population is characterized by high activity in the educational activity, which manifests itself in an increased tendency to energy costs and high professional claims. At the same time there is a decrease feeling of success in the professional activities of general life satisfaction, as well as underdeveloped ability to actively solving the problems. The latter can be explained by a low sense of self-competence, and reduced control of the effects of their actions. High activity level is consistent with a moderate tendency to failure in the failure situation.

Attention is drawn to the average level of a sense of social support from the immediate environment. This can be explained by the contents of the primary stage adaptation of first-year students to the new conditions of activity in the learning environment. During this period begins the formation of a new social role of student perception of themselves and others as members of a new social environment. Emerging in this period consciousness of belonging to a given environment, identification with the environment requires a high sense of confidence in it, the consciousness of their own participation and influence on what is happening, the belief that the development will meet the expectations of the individual. At the same time it becomes the basis for the formation of active coping strategies, and as a result – increase the success of life. The process of social adaptation of first-year students characterizes a number of features peculiar to the professional stage adaptation. To the fore the need for selection, competition, and efforts achieve a higher social status in the student group. Another problem that period of study is the requirement of increased independence, ability to make decisions in the new complex environment of university activities.

Next problem is dissatisfaction with the results of its activities, the wait more failures and defeats than successes inherent in the population of students. This means that the environment in which the student is functioning, it is perceived as unfavorable to achieve their goals. Low levels of social support in conjunction with the general dissatisfaction with the results of their work confirms the need to take preventive measures, more active participation in the creation of university psychologists counseling centers for students in high school.

The main problem is that the state of stress is calculated for a short time it takes to overcome the danger. Unrealized stress hormones permanently stored in the body, adversely affecting the health. Students also tend to face long-term problems. They would like to control their life, but the changes while studying at the university happen so fast that sometimes they simply carry the current. Relationships with people and family problems supplement this list alarms.

Importance of the study of mental health of students is determined by the presence of stress factors among college students, such as the examination of the situation, the periods of social adaptation, the need for personal self-determination in their future professional environment and others in distress and its implications constitute a serious risk to the psychological health of the individual. This applies especially to the youth and student period in a person’s life when personal resources seem inexhaustible and optimism in relation to their own health prevails over concern about it. A strong focus on the experience of the present, high achievement motivation is forced out of the consciousness of the student potential concerns related to the effects of prolonged stress. Student age is characterized by a variety of emotional experiences, which is reflected in the style of life that would prevent the care of their own health, as this orientation is traditionally attributed to the older generation and the young person is assessed as “unattractive and boring.” At this time, limited the ability to relaxation and recreation for the same belief in the immensity of own physical and mental resources. The period of active entry into the new social environment is accompanied by actions aimed at gaining recognition and high status in the group of students of the same age. It uses a variety of means, not always meet the preventive health (nicotine, alcohol, drugs). Attempts to win his place among peers are often associated with high-risk behavior, the desire to achieve it at any cost priznaniya1.

Numerous studies in the field of stress were initially focused on the description of its factors of the reactions to stress, strategies to overcome it. Health Psychology special attention to the definition of “price” paid by people in situations of increased requirements, mental stress and overload. Undoubtedly, the student environment refers to those in which these requirements are the overload and in a variety. On the other hand, during this period, shaping the future of professional mental health which directly affects the success of the activities and lifestyle in general, and thus acquires a high social value (Oxington, 2005). During the period of acute social and economic change with all the force is even one additional risk factor in relation to the preservation of mental health – social and professional uncertainty of the future specialist in society and the need to find employment commensurate with the level of education and training.

Exams give double psychological burden, because, apart from the period of passing the test, the person is going through and the time before the exam. It may be a day or two, a week or even a month. Throughout this period the mentally and physically a person is under stress.

This is not surprising, because the exams – the psycho-emotional overexertion. However, the body is interconnected. Strong emotions can cause somatic disorders and even psychosomatic illness. In addition, during the preparation of the majority of people varies considerably regime of work and rest, sleep and nutrition.

According to some researchers, exam stress is one of the first places among the causes of mental stress among students in secondary and higher education in particular (Humphrey, 1982). Very often, the exam becomes a factor of traumatic psyche, which takes into account even in clinical psychiatry in determining the nature of the neuroses.

Foreign scholars believe that the exam stress has at least a strong influence on the physiological functions of the body, such as the regulation of the nervous, blood circulation and respiration. U.S. researchers have found that it can cause a violation of the genetic apparatus, increasing the risk of cancer. For example, researchers from the Medical School of Houston have found that during the examination session the students are activated mechanisms responsible for the restoration of damaged areas of the DNA molecule. In another study it was shown that the examination stress, especially in combination with caffeine, may lead to subsequent persistent increase in blood pressure in young people.

German scientists from the University of Dusseldorf examinations showed negative impact on the immune system of students, which was reflected in the deterioration of oral micro-flora during strenuous training and examinations. Researchers from Belgium have demonstrated profound effects of academic stress on the blood.

According to authors, at exam time at school and university students found autonomic disorders of the cardiovascular system, as any environmental impacts that require the activation of the body and increased efforts to cause activation of the regulatory mechanisms – namely, the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system. This is the body needs in order to properly coordinate the work of the circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems. This process is called adaptation. Long and significant emotional stress can lead to excessive activation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system, and subsequently – to unbalance the whole of the body.

The consequences are: when strained the system of regulation are no longer adequately responding organism and gives rise to states, called maladjustment, distress or failure of adaptation. It can be expressed in different ways. For example, in the development of so-called extra-terrestrial (protective) braking system – this is when the central nervous system super strong incentives arise unnecessarily slow response excitation or, on the contrary, the response inhibition. May also have sleep disorders (insomnia, night and day – constant sleepiness), jumps in blood pressure or, on the contrary, its long-term sustainable increase or decrease, loss of appetite, immune suppression, fatigue, exacerbation of allergic diseases, including, hair loss and other manifestations.

The unfavorable factors, the period of preparation for the exams may include intense mental activity, increased static load limit of physical activity, sleep disturbance, emotional distress associated with a possible change in the social status of the students – all of this leads to a strain on the autonomic nervous system implementing the regulation of normal life organism. The researchers note that during the exam is greatly increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and increased levels of muscular and emotional stress.

After passing the exam physiological measures do not go right back to normal. This usually requires several days. But if the body is weakened, and the impact of stress is very large, it may occur and long-term effects. Many alumni, students and graduates after passing state exams and defending a thesis in a few weeks, and even after three to five months, say depression, increased frequency of colds and exacerbation of chronic diseases, such as gastric and duodenal ulcers, cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, high cholesterol, and heart attack), headaches, muscle cramps, allergies, skin diseases, diseases of the spine. Stress affects the psycho-mental state, causing anxiety, depression, inner restlessness and agitation, aggressiveness.

At the same time, examination stress is not always harmful. In certain situations, psychological stress can have a stimulating effect, helping the young person to mobilize his/her internal resources for solving the learning tasks in front of one. So, it is necessary not to talk about the need to avoid examinations, in order to reduce the negative effects of stress.

Opinion polls show that students perceive the exam as a “duel of questions and answers,” as “refined torture” as “intellectual and emotional overload.” The importance of the exam due to the fact that its results affect the social status of the young person, his/her self-esteem, financial position (stipend) for the prospects of study in high school, and possibly future professional career. Factors such as long waiting exam, the element of uncertainty in the choice of a ticket and hard limit of time to prepare, strengthen the emotional stress to the maximum value that is accompanied by “hormonal and autonomic storm.” For example, some students systolic blood pressure before the test came to the 170-180mm., and pulse – up to 120-130 beats per minute, which corresponds to the performance or hypertensive patients with solid experience of the disease, or the performance of athletes who experience significant physical activity. According to the survey conducted, 33% of the students complained about the increased heart rate before the exam, 31% had a sleep disorder, 20% of the students talked about the abuse control muscles (uncontrolled muscle tremors, weakness in the knees, etc.), 8% reported discomfort in chest, 4% of the students complained of headaches, etc. (McNamara, 2001).

It should be noted that when any of the imaginary or real danger in different individuals included predominantly “active” or “passive” form reaction. The majority of people in case of danger feel the increased heart rate and blood pressure, while at the lower part – on the contrary, the pulse slows and the pressure is. This picture emerges and students with fear before the forthcoming examinations: while most young people a state of nervous tension and anxiety accompanied by palpitations and high blood pressure, on the part of students observed a different reaction: slow heart rate, decreased muscle tone, falling blood pressure.

Some foreign researchers who thoroughly studied this problem in general have come to the conclusion that a psychological point of exams are undesirable and should be abolished. At the same time, there is another point of view, which asserts that the exams stimulate the brain and improve cognitive activity. American psychologist Sarazon found that fear exam students can significantly improve their achievements and even surpass those exams are not afraid (Fink, 2000). Just for this, according to the scientist, it is a need of a favorable attitude towards them from the examiners – the person have to spare the self-esteem of students, less than berate them, and more praise. Only in this case the test may be useful.

Methodology

The aim of this study is to understand what are the effects of stress on body and health of students. Human social life constantly puts the person in a situation of “exams” – certain tests, where he/she has to prove his/her social independence, material well-being, physical well-being or level of intelligence. A classic example of the “exam stress” can be found in times of session in any educational institution. Sleepless nights, anxious thoughts, loss of appetite, rapid heart rate and tremors in the limbs are typical manifestations of fear of exams. The subject of this research is the review of literature on the topic of stress effects on students during the exams.

The study used the following research methods: dialectical scientific abstraction –

exploring the term stress, its effect on the human body and health and the specific stress points caused by the exams; economical and statistical method – examining, evaluating and determining the dynamics of the stress coefficients of students; comparisons or analogies – comparison of the literature, understanding its points about the stress development and effect; extrapolation – moving past trends for future periods; situational and systemic method – investigation of factors that determine the key stress causes that were moved by stress.

The next component in the context of methodology of this study is a meticulously chosen approach. Approach is the angle of research, which defines its original position, the starting point that helped to begin the study. A proper approach determines its orientation relative to the target. The main approach used during the fulfillment of this research was scientific method.

The study also included the usage of monographic methods (the theoretical analysis of the literature); diagnostic ones (the experiment); methods of the results analysis of operations); statistical methods (statistical analysis of the results).