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    Booth, Joanne Connelly, Lesley Lawrence, Maggie Chalmers, Campbell Joice, Sara Becker, Clarissa and Dougall, Nadine 2015. Evidence of perceived psychosocial stress as a risk factor for stroke in adults: a meta-analysis. BMC Neurology, Vol. 15, Issue. 1,

  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: June 2012

9 - Stress


Introduction: the nature of stress

Stress is a necessary part of life, but the impact it has on people varies, depending partly on their personality traits. In this chapter, we discuss how personality, stress reactions, styles of cognitive appraisal and coping relate to stress vulnerability and emotional problems arising from stress. The most straightforward research on personality and stress is correlational in nature. As we shall see, there is abundant evidence that shows traits, especially neuroticism (N), are associated with high levels of stress symptoms, including mental disorders. Beyond correlational studies, there are several more difficult issues. One issue is whether high N is truly a causative factor on stress outcomes: perhaps increased N is simply a concomitant of stress, with no direct causal influence. A second theme which we will develop is that ‘stress’ refers to a multitude of concepts that may be only loosely related, including exposure to disturbing events, physiological response to threat, biases in cognition and disruption of everyday social interaction. A third theme is that of person–situation interaction in the stress process, consistent with the interactionist approaches to personality reviewed in chapter 2.

Defining stress

It is useful to begin with some definitions of stress. Because the term ‘stress’ is imprecise, it is interpreted in many different ways. Therefore, below, we give a brief overview of the concept of ‘stress’ before we consider, in the rest of the chapter, how it relates to personality traits.

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Personality Traits
  • Online ISBN: 9780511812743
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Further reading
Carmody, J., Reed, G., Kristeller, J. and Merriam, P. (2008) Mindfulness, spirituality, and health-related symptoms. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 64, 393–403.
Lazarus, R. S. (2006) Emotions and interpersonal relationships: towards a person-centred conceptualization of emotions and coping. Journal of Personality, 74, 9–46.
Peterson, C. (2000) The future of optimism. American Psychologist, 55, 44–55.