Stressful life events and physical health

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2006 Mar;19(2):184-9. doi: 10.1097/01.yco.0000214346.44625.57.


Purpose of review: This review summarizes the findings of recent researches from selected empirical and nonempirical publications focused on stressful life events and physical health.

Recent findings: The findings can be divided into biological, psychological, and social issues concerning the important relationship between stressful life events and physical health. Growing evidence in the field of psychoneuroimmunology contributes to the understanding of the mechanisms by which stressful events affect physical health. The interactions between behavior, central nervous system, and endocrine system that might cause immunosuppression is the most fascinating finding in modern medicine, and its implications are important for the prevention and treatment of somatic illnesses. Trauma, abuse, and stressful events have been studied extensively, especially among vulnerable groups such as children, women, caregivers, and combatants. Risk factors and resilience were the focus of attention of some authors as well as the behavioral intervention for coping with stressful events.

Summary: The findings support old observations and case reports of a close link between stressful life events and physical health and emphasize the necessity of early recognition and timely management of stress-induced illnesses. Psychosomatic approach, multidimensional diagnostics, and treatment should be sine qua non in the integrated care of affected people and should improve their quality of life.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Mental Disorders / immunology
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Psychoneuroimmunology / methods
  • Psychotherapy
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology