Can counselling help you manage stress in your life and help you improve your health?

People who believe that stress is having an adverse impact on their health are probably right, because they have an increased risk of suffering a heart attack, according to new research in the European Heart Journal.


The latest findings from the UK's Whitehall II study found that “white collar” civil servants who believe stress is affecting their health "a lot or extremely" had double the risk of a heart attack compared to people who didn't believe stress was having a significant effect on their health.


Previous results from Whitehall II and other studies have already shown that stress can have an adverse effect on people's health, but this is the first time researchers have investigated people's perceptions of how stress is affecting their health and linked it to their risk of subsequent heart disease.


The participants in the study were asked to what extent they felt that stress or pressure they experienced in their lives had affected their health. They could answer: "not at all," "slightly," "moderately," "a lot," or "extremely." The researchers put their answers into three groups: 1) "not at all," 2) "slightly or moderately," and 3) "a lot or extremely." The civil servants were also asked about their perceived levels of stress, as well as about other lifestyle factors that could influence their health, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, and levels of physical activity.


After adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics, civil servants who reported at the beginning of the study that their health had been affected "a lot or extremely" by stress had more than double the risk (2.12 times higher) of having a heart attack or dying from it compared with those who reported no effect of stress on their health. After adjustments for biological, behavioural and other psychological risk factors, including stress levels and measures of social support, the risk was not as great, but still higher -- nearly half as much again (49% higher) -- than that seen in people who reported no effect on their health.


The authors of the study concluded that one of the important messages from their findings was that people's perceptions about the impact of stress on their health were likely to be correct. The authors believe that their findings have far-reaching implications and that future studies of stress should include people's perceptions of its impact on their health. They say that their findings show that responses to stress or abilities to cope with stress differ greatly between individuals, depending on the resources available to them, such as social support, social activities and previous experiences of stress.


Offering counselling in Hastings as a registered therapist, I have extensive experience  in helping clients to handle the stress in their lives.


added at 12:06am on 30th June 2013

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