Health Disorders Associated with Chronic Stress Affected by Discrimination - Cardiovascular Diseases, Neural Atrophy, and Memory Impairment – Term Paper Example

Emotional health and wellness potential Anna Fihar INTRODUCTION Stress is the biological response to the environmental factors called stressors. Our body adapted to the outer environment that contains a potential threat through activation of the sympathetic nervous system that results in a fight – or – flight response. Such stress – response system helps our body to survive during different harmful events and attacks. In turn, parasympathetic nervous system turns our body to the normal physiological condition and helps to maintain homeostasis. Production of the stress hormones in the short term provides adaptive and protective benefits for our body. But, overproduction of the stress hormones during frequent stress responses induces illness and exhausts immune system. Hence, repeated or chronic stress is more dangerous as it can provoke different health disorders through allostatic load. The most common health disorders associated with the regular allostatic load are cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, increased blood pressure, carotid and coronary artherosclerosis; neural atrophy and memory impairment. There are different kinds of the stressors that can provoke stress in our organism. For example, social stressors such as prejudice or discrimination are quite dangerous as they can lead to chronic vigilance and provoke medical conditions as the result of the chronic stress action. Several investigations proved that there is a direct relationship between physiological and mental disorders and discrimination. (Sawyer PJ ,2012)
The risk group for the anticipation of the discrimination and prejudice are inter ethnic minorities. Several laboratory trials were conducted to analyze the connection between negative discrimination experience and psychological distress, physical health outcomes such as stroke, cancer, diabetes and physiological outcomes such as blood pressure (BP) reactivity. The researchers provide examples of the positive evidences that proved the relationship between health disorders and exposure to such social stressors as discrimination.
The investigators conducted experiment with White and Latina participants to describe the effects of the situational discrimination on the cardiovascular reactivity among Latina participants. The researchers chose for their trial 27 participants for the prejudice condition and 27 for non prejudice condition. Both groups of the participants were born in the United States. Before the experiment both groups passed an online questionnaire that provides information about their trait anxiety and depression. Both groups of the participants passed prexperiment measurements and physiological base line in the separated rooms. After that investigators used an attitude questionnaire to make ethnicity salient. All participants were applied with the physiological sensors that provided an opportunity to measure their cardiovascular reactivity during the experiment. They described the cognitive and emotional states of the Latina college students while they were prepared and reported a speech to their white confederates. Latina participants learned that their partners had ethnic or racial prejudiced position. The data gathered after the experiment showed that Latina participants who thought that their confederates had prejudices attitudes felt more threat emotions before the interaction, high stress response after the interaction and increased cardiovascular response compared to the participants who were convinced that their confederates had egalitarian attitudes. The cardiovascular responses were measured during the 5 minute baseline, 2 minute speech preparation and 3 minute speech delivery. (Sawyer PJ ,2012)
Therefore, discrimination can even cause stress in people who merely perceive they are being treated unfairly. The data show that Latina participants who were paired with the confederated with the prejudice position had elevated stress responses even before they met them. Accordingly, to the physical data their stress response was raised in anticipation of a discriminatory experience. This proved the investigators hypotheses 1 and 2 of the anticipating phase that supposed that participants in the prejudiced condition would have more threat cognitions and emotions compared to the other group of participants in the non prejudices conditions when expecting the interactive task. The results showed that 52% (n=14) of the participants in the prejudiced group were reported anxiety about getting along with their confederates compared to the 19% (n=5) in the non prejudiced conditions. The 3 hypotheses of the investigators supposed that individuals in the prejudices condition would have increased cardiovascular response during the interactive task. Opposite to this hypothesis the participants in the both groups did not experience increased blood pressure, cardiac output. But, the participants in the prejudiced group had greater sympathetic nervous system activity. The 1 and 2 hypotheses of the post interaction phase assumed that participants in the prejudiced condition will experience increased threat emotions after the task. In support these hypotheses the post interaction questionnaire showed that participants in the prejudiced group rated their speech as more stressful and were convinced that had a less complimentary impression of them compared to the other group. Hence, individuals who convinced in the existence of the future threat will be vigilant and emotionally and physically respond to the anticipated threat with increased stress. Improvement of this suggestion showed in this study. We can see that Latina participants had increased stress response without any behavioral and discriminatory actions. That`s proved that high stress levels of the Latinas were raised before meeting their White partners. Therefore, the main idea of the investigators finding is that chronic vigilance for discrimination can be both physically and psychologically meaningful. (Sawyer PJ ,2012)
1. Sawyer PJ . (2012). Discrimination and the stress response: psychological and physiological consequences of anticipating prejudice in interethnic interactions. National Center for Biotechnology Information Online. Retrieved from