Stress, stress response, and health

Nurs Clin North Am. 2004 Mar;39(1):1-17. doi: 10.1016/j.cnur.2003.11.001.


Components of stress and the stress response differ between men and women. The tend-and-befriend response, mediated by oxytocin and endogenous opioids, may be more applicable to women than the fight-or-flight response, which was based largely on studies of men. Even within the flight-or-flight response pattern there are sex-based differences. The HPA axis interacts with reproductive function, such as menstruation. For immune function there are sex differences as well as differences within the menstrual phase. Inclusion of men and women in stress response studies is critical. Further study is needed to clarify the influence of ovarian hormones on the stress and immune responses during the reproductive stages in women's lives, including menarche. pregnancy, and perimenopause.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • General Adaptation Syndrome / physiopathology
  • General Adaptation Syndrome / psychology
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Life Change Events
  • Opioid Peptides / physiology
  • Oxytocin / physiology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Social Behavior
  • Stress, Physiological* / complications
  • Stress, Physiological* / physiopathology
  • Stress, Physiological* / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological* / complications
  • Stress, Psychological* / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological* / psychology
  • Women's Health*


  • Opioid Peptides
  • Oxytocin