Sex, stress, and health

Using the results of all the questionnaires it was found that women found that they had a higher rate of hassles in their lives, compared to the men. It was found that women also had a tendency to have slightly higher scores overall, though none with any significant difference other than with the hassles questionnaire. The astounding part of this study was there was a significant correlation between health symptoms and the psychological state, only in the women, yet men showed no correlation.

For men their psychological state was not related to the stress. Men only expressed a physical relationship to stressors and daily hassles. This would go to show that men do not experience stress in any great intensity when presented with such illnesses as depression, but only find themselves affected when in a current stressful event. Weekes, MacLean, and Berger (2005) did observe that “women and men reported comparable levels of perceived stress, but women reported higher levels of exposure to stress. Measures of exposure to stress (Stressors and Hassles) were positively correlated with health problems for both women and men, but the measure of perceived stress (i.e. state anxiety, trait anxiety, perceived stress, and depression) were strongly correlated with health problems only for women”. (p. 152)

From the results of this study we are able to conclude that dependent on your sex, the reaction to stress will differ. It also goes to show that exposure to stressful events may be enough to elicit negative health symptoms. This can be determined by the test results that the highest negative health symptoms that are predicted come from our stressor exposure compared to how the stressor is perceived. This may be because each individual perceives exposure to stress in different ways.

It also went to show that “the experience or perception of psychological stress has been shown to be dependent on the extent to which the individual appraises the event as being stressful”. (Weekes, MacLean, and Berger 2005, p. 152) Yet the study only found that in females is there any relationship between negative health symptoms and stress perception. These results are fairly consistent with other studies that have touched on stressor exposure.

Though as conclusive as we find these results with previous studies, there are some discrepancies. These differences would be based on the measurements used in each study. As we know, measurements in studies need to comparable and consistent. This was made apparent by “Cohen (1993) who found measures of perceived stress to be related to risk of infection (i.e. immune or other biological markers), whereas rates of stressor exposure were related to clinical symptoms”. (Weekes, MacLean, and Berger 2005, p. 153) To get more concise results overall it would be wise for each study to use stressors and hassles that are consistent and affect all age groups of women and men.

Another problem with all of these studies is how women and men differ in their coping mechanisms. It is often found that men deal with their stress by trying to deduce the reasoning for the stress (i.e. problem solving techniques). Women are often found to use techniques that are based on emotion when it comes to their stressors. Knowing this it would be expected that men have a better coping strategy.

Yet as Weekes, MacLean, and Berger (2005) stated “numerous studies have also strongly suggested the use of social support as an effective buffer of stress-related health decline, and the preferential usage of social support by females is one of the best-supported sex difference in the coping literature”. (p. 153) Also supporting the fact that women may have a better coping mechanism by being emotion-based is “that Benyamini (2000) found that negative affect predicted higher mortality rates in older males but lower morality rates in older females”. (Weekes, MacLean, and Berger 2005, p. 153)

These discrepancies can only be handled by making a more precise system of tests that can be comparable to any age group of men and women, and as to whether or not we look into clinical symptoms or mortality rates. Also we are at a loss of information concerning stress on participants based on current health conditions and hormones expressed by stressor exposure. One hormone we found that may have an affect on physiological response from stress is oxytocin, which is “known to have a suppressive effect on other aspects of stress response, and therefore may serve as a buffer to stress-related illness or mortality, in females.” (Weekes, MacLean, and Berger 2005, p. 154) This let’s us know that by testing only for participants perceived stress that we may be missing crucial information regarding how their bodies themselves actually assist with blocking the full affects of exposure to a stressor.


Weekes, MacLean, and Berger (2005) were able to find that there are distinct differences in how men and women express stress in psychological or physiological reactions. They also were able to confirm that stress and depression do have a strong relationship with the representation of negative health symptoms. It was also shown that as different as men and women react based on stressor exposure and perceived stress, they closely relate when it comes to their stressors and hassles. Yet even with the extensive amount of questionnaires provided to each participant, there’s enough data and variables missing that more testing on the subject would be important to receive.

Overall the study is comparative and was able to confirm that dependent on your sex you will either react psychologically or physiologically. It would be wise to look into making a more generalized study that not only college students, but an older generation may participate in as well. Also as stated by Weekes, MacLean, and Berger (2005) it would be important to bring in data that links the sexes and stress with such variables as hormones and other physical responses.

It may also be good to place participants in a controlled environment where we can expose them to stressors and hassles, while measuring their physiological responses (i.e. hormone levels, heart rate). A use of participants from different Socioeconomic Status (SES) would also benefit further study into the affects of stress on the men and women. There is so much to study with not only stress, but with men and women, that many more studies will need to be conducted in hopes of finding the answer to stress and the sexes.


Weekes, N. Y., MacLean, J., & Berger, D. E. (2005). Sex, stress, and health: Does stress predict health symptoms differently for the two sexes? Stress and Health 21: 147-156

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