Critical biological pathways for chronic psychosocial stress and research opportunities to advance the consideration of stress in chemical risk assessment

Am J Public Health. 2011 Dec;101 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S131-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300270. Epub 2011 Oct 20.


Emerging evidence suggests that psychosocial stress and toxicants may interact to modify health risks. Stress-toxicant interactions could be important in chemical risk assessment, but these interactions are poorly understood and additional research is necessary to advance their application. Environmental health research can increase knowledge of these interactions by exploring hypotheses on allostatic load, which measures the cumulative impacts of stress across multiple physiological pathways, using knowledge about physiological pathways for stress-related health effects, and evidence of common target pathways for both stress and toxicants. In this article, critical physiological pathways for stress-related health effects are discussed, with specific attention to allostatic load and stress-toxicant interactions, concluding with research suggestions for potential applications of such research in chemical risk assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Allostasis / physiology
  • Biomedical Research
  • Chronic Disease
  • Critical Pathways
  • Hazardous Substances / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / chemically induced*


  • Hazardous Substances