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Original scientific paper

Public Health Burden of Chronic Stress in a Transforming Society

Mária S. Kopp ; Semmelweis University, Budapest, Institute of Behavioural Sciences

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page 297-310

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In this paper chronic stress is proposed as an integrating model that can be applied to the explanation of the suddenly changing patterns of premature mortality rates in transforming societies of Central-Eastern-Europe, especially in Hungary. The temporal factor in existing stress models is often neglected. Chronic stress has been shown to lead to typical pathogenetic results in animal experiments. Literature and the different models in the field of psychology, behavioural sciences, and epidemiology are reviewed in terms of the chronic stress theory. There are several conceptual bridges between psychological alterations and the risks, onset and prognosis of chronic disorders of great epidemiological significance. Depending on the field of research there are several parallel concepts which analyse practically the same phenomena. These are the stress theories in physiology, learned helplessness and control theory in psychology, depression research in psychiatry, the concept of vital exhaustion and the psychosocial risk research in sociology. Because chronic stress results in adverse health effects through biological, social and behavioural pathways, this theory might also have
the best explanatory power to understand the premature male morbidity and mortality crisis in Central and Eastern Europe in the last decades. The special features of premature mortality and morbidity crisis in Hungary might be regarded as an experimental model to understand better the human consequences of chronic stress and those processes where psychology meets physiology.


chronic stress, depression, learned helplessness, gender differences, transforming societies

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