New Study Suggests That Stress May Provide Some Social Benefits

Stress is well-known as a condition that makes people feel terrible. But this recent study suggests that in spite of its negative effects, stress may provide certain social benefits. In this study, the team consisting of researchers at Penn State has made a surprising discovery regarding stress and presented the results in the journal Stress & Health.

They have found that facing this condition increases the likelihood of giving and receiving emotional support among people hence providing social benefits to them. This finding was observed on the day of experiencing stress and the following day.

David M. Almeida is working as a professor of human development and family studies at Penn State College of Health and Human Development. He stated that though stress has certain negative health consequences, it can also provide some beneficial effects.

He added that the study findings suggest that having a bad day isn’t linked to a completely unhealthy outcome. If experiencing stress can improve social connections, it seems to be quite beneficial. Stress may prove to be helpful in dealing with negative circumstances by providing support from other people.

The previous studies have found that stress can lead to negative health consequences such as symptoms of depression, compromised immune system, and heart disease. According to Almeida, the Penn State researchers were interested in finding that if stress is also linked to beneficial health outcomes like emotional support.

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A graduate student of Penn State – Hye Won Chai said that many of the previous studies have focused on how emotional support improves other health consequences, but only a few of them have analyzed the factors behind this social support. According to him, stress may be acting as a potential facilitator in improving social support.

In this study, the research team interviewed about 1,622 individuals for eight consecutive nights. These participants were questioned about their stress triggers. They were also asked if they have received or provided emotional support on the day of experiencing stress.

Stressors or stress triggers in these study participants were found to be arguments with other people and stressful events at school, work, or home. The results indicated that the likelihood of providing and receiving emotional support was more than twice on the days’ participants faced stressors. Whereas, the chances of receiving and providing emotional support on the following day were almost 26%.

Such social benefits were more observable in women compared to men. This finding supports the previous study results stating that women look for more emotional support in any stressful situation. Though men were also found to be seeking emotional support on the days they faced stressors, its extent was much lesser compared to women.

Almeida further added that the overall results of the study indicate that stress may act as a factor for improving the social connection and enabling people to think that it is okay to talk about their problems.

These results can also facilitate health practitioners in improving and designing better stress-targeted interventions. It also suggests that an intervention targeting social interaction may be more beneficial compared to individualized interventions.