Tag Archives: General adaptation syndrome

University of Texas at San Antonio study: Role culture plays in feeling sick

2 Mar

Medical News Today described health in What is good health?

Fast facts on health
Here are some key points about health. More detail is in the main article.
• Health can be defined as physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and as a resource for living a full life.
• It refers not only to the absence of disease, but the ability to recover and bounce back from illness and other problems.
• Factors for good health include genetics, the environment, relationships, and education.
• A healthful diet, exercise, screening for diseases, and coping strategies can all enhance a person’s health….

Types
Mental and physical health are the two most commonly discussed types of health. We also talk about “spiritual health,” “emotional health,” and “financial health,” among others. These have also been linked to lower stress levels and mental and physical wellbeing.
Physical health
In a person who experiences physical health, bodily functions are working at peak performance, due not only to a lack of disease, but also to regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate rest. We receive treatment, when necessary, to maintain the balance.
Physical wellbeing involves pursuing a healthful lifestyle to decrease the risk of disease. Maintaining physical fitness, for example, can protect and develop the endurance of a person’s breathing and heart function, muscular strength, flexibility, and body composition.
Physical health and well-being also help reduce the risk of an injury or health issue. Examples include minimizing hazards in the workplace, practicing safe sex, practicing good hygiene, or avoiding the use of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs.
Mental health
Mental health refers to a person’s emotional, social, and psychological wellbeing. Mental health is as important as physical health to a full, active lifestyle.
It is harder to define mental health than physical health, because, in many cases, diagnosis depends on the individual’s perception of their experience. With improvements in testing, however, some signs of some types of mental illness are now becoming “visible” in CT scans and genetic testing.
Mental health is not only the absence of depression, anxiety, or another disorder.
It also depends on the ability to:
• enjoy life
• bounce back after difficult experiences
• achieve balance
• adapt to adversity
• feel safe and secure
• achieve your potential
Physical and mental health are linked. If chronic illness affects a person’s ability to complete their regular tasks, this may lead to depression and stress, for example, due to money problems…. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/150999#types

University of Texas at  San Antonio studied the role culture played in an individual’s assessment of their health.

Science Daily reported in Role culture plays in feeling sick:

The physical and mental sensations we associate with feeling sick are a natural biological response to inflammation within the body. However, the strength and severity of these sensations go beyond biology and may be affected by gender, ethnicity and various social norms we’ve all internalized. These are the latest research findings, according to social scientists at UTSA, who have discovered a link between a person’s culture and how one classifies being ill.
Social scientists think that a person’s values may shape internal views on “socially appropriate sickness.” This has implications for how different individuals may take more action in dealing with illness rather than spreading further disease.
Eric Shattuck, a biological anthropologist with UTSA’s Institute for Health Disparities Research; sociology professor Thankam Sunil, who is director of the IHDR; and Xiaohe Xu, chair of UTSA’s Department of Sociology, found that sickness expression is affected by gender, income and cultural values.
Specifically, study participants who (1) earned less than the U.S. median household income, (2) claimed to be stoics with a high tolerance for pain or (3) had symptoms of depression were more likely to express being sick. In men with stronger family bonds, feeling sick was also more likely to be reported.
“It’s ironic. You think that being a stoic would mean that you are more likely to be reserved, but according to our survey, it has the opposite effect,” said Shattuck. “Stoics could own up to being ill as a bragging right and maintain a disease for longer than is necessary.”
According to the researchers, stoics — regardless of gender — and individuals with household incomes lower than $60,000 were more likely to claim being ill.
“In regard to lower income levels, perhaps those individuals were more likely to claim to have been sick because they didn’t necessarily have the means to seek medical attention and, therefore, symptoms became severe,” added Shattuck. “This perhaps made them remember the illness.”
The researchers also pointed that men with stronger family ties were more likely to report stronger sickness sensations over the past year.
“It could be that family support allows men to feel more cared for and therefore rely on that social safety net,” said Shattuck.
The researchers analyzed the self-reported surveys of 1,259 respondents who claimed to have been sick with influenza or the common cold in the past year. Participants were also asked to rate their current feelings of sickness from “not sick” to “severely sick” using a Likert-type scale in order to control for any possible compounding effect.
Sickness behavior, including lethargy, social withdrawal and appetite changes, is “one of the responses that all living creatures from ants to bees to humans seem to have in common. Yet socioeconomic and cultural norms play a part with us,” said Shattuck. “For example, other researchers have shown that the majority of individuals who work in many fields, including medicine, are often likely to show up to work while being sick. If you think about it, this is about work culture and it has consequences.”
The next step for the researchers is to repeat the study with individuals who are actively sick versus those that had to recall an illness. Areas of future investigation will explore how the severity of an illness affects reporting being sick…. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200302113312.htm

Citation:

Role culture plays in feeling sick
Date: March 2, 2020
Source: University of Texas at San Antonio
Summary:
Scientists think that a person’s values may shape views on ”socially appropriate sickness.” This has implications for how individuals may take more action in dealing with illness rather than spreading further disease. According to the researchers, stoics or individuals with incomes lower than $60,000 were more likely to claim being ill. People may be comfortable reporting being sick when it’s a common cold but questions arise with stigmatized infections, such as HIV and now coronavirus.

Journal Reference:
Eric C. Shattuck, Jessica K. Perrotte, Colton L. Daniels, Xiaohe Xu, Thankam S. Sunil. The Contribution of Sociocultural Factors in Shaping Self-Reported Sickness Behavior. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 2020; 14 DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2020.00004

Here is the press release from University of Texas at San Antonio:

MARCH 2, 2020

Researchers study role culture plays in feeling sick
by Milady Nazir, University of Texas at San Antonio

The physical and mental sensations we associate with feeling sick are a natural biological response to inflammation within the body. However, the strength and severity of these sensations go beyond biology and may be affected by gender, ethnicity and various social norms we’ve all internalized. These are the latest research findings, according to social scientists at UTSA, who have discovered a link between a person’s culture and how one classifies being ill.
Social scientists think that a person’s values may shape internal views on “socially appropriate sickness.” This has implications for how different individuals may take more action in dealing with illness rather than spreading further disease.
Eric Shattuck, a biological anthropologist with UTSA’s Institute for Health Disparities Research; sociology professor Thankam Sunil, who is director of the IHDR; and Xiaohe Xu, chair of UTSA’s Department of Sociology, found that sickness expression is affected by gender, income and cultural values.
Specifically, study participants who (1) earned less than the U.S. median household income, (2) claimed to be stoics with a high tolerance for pain or (3) had symptoms of depression were more likely to express being sick. In men with stronger family bonds, feeling sick was also more likely to be reported.
“It’s ironic. You think that being a stoic would mean that you are more likely to be reserved, but according to our survey, it has the opposite effect,” said Shattuck. “Stoics could own up to being ill as a bragging right and maintain a disease for longer than is necessary.”
According to the researchers, stoics—regardless of gender—and individuals with household incomes lower than $60,000 were more likely to claim being ill.
“In regard to lower income levels, perhaps those individuals were more likely to claim to have been sick because they didn’t necessarily have the means to seek medical attention and, therefore, symptoms became severe,” added Shattuck. “This perhaps made them remember the illness.”
The researchers also pointed that men with stronger family ties were more likely to report stronger sickness sensations over the past year.
“It could be that family support allows men to feel more cared for and therefore rely on that social safety net,” said Shattuck.
The researchers analyzed the self-reported surveys of 1,259 respondents who claimed to have been sick with influenza or the common cold in the past year. Participants were also asked to rate their current feelings of sickness from “not sick” to “severely sick” using a Likert-type scale in order to control for any possible compounding effect.
Sickness behavior, including lethargy, social withdrawal and appetite changes, is “one of the responses that all living creatures from ants to bees to humans seem to have in common. Yet socioeconomic and cultural norms play a part with us,” said Shattuck. “For example, other researchers have shown that the majority of individuals who work in many fields, including medicine, are often likely to show up to work while being sick. If you think about it, this is about work culture and it has consequences.”
The next step for the researchers is to repeat the study with individuals who are actively sick versus those that had to recall an illness. Areas of future investigation will explore how the severity of an illness affects reporting being sick.
“Maybe people are more comfortable reporting being sick when it’s a common cold,” Shattuck said, “but what about those stigmatized infections, such as HIV. What about the coronavirus? How are infectious diseases claimed using a cultural or economic lens?”
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Explore further
Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
________________________________________
More information: Eric C. Shattuck et al. The Contribution of Sociocultural Factors in Shaping Self-Reported Sickness Behavior, Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience (2020). DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2020.00004
Provided by University of Texas at San Antonio

More research should be aimed at why some folk have an illness, but display less severe symptoms.

The Medical News Today article, What to know about general adaptation syndrome points to a possible research direction:

General adaptation syndrome is a three-stage response that the body has to stress. But what do the different stages involve and what examples are there of GAS in action?
Stress is sometimes thought of as a mental pressure, but it also has a physical effect on the body. Understanding the stages the body goes through when exposed to stress helps people become more aware of these physical signs of stress when they occur….

The three stages of GAS are:
• alarm reaction
• resistance
• exhaustion
What happens within the body during each of these stages is explored below.

Alarm reaction stage

At the alarm reaction stage, a distress signal is sent to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus enables the release of hormones called glucocorticoids.
Glucocorticoids trigger the release of adrenaline and cortisol, which is a stress hormone. The adrenaline gives a person a boost of energy. Their heart rate increases and their blood pressure rises. Meanwhile, blood sugar levels also go up.
These physiological changes are governed by a part of a person’s autonomic nervous system (ANS) called the sympathetic branch.
The alarm reaction stage of the GAS prepares a person to respond to the stressor they are experiencing. This is often known as a “fight or flight” response.

Resistance

During the resistance stage, the body tries to counteract the physiological changes that happened during the alarm reaction stage. The resistance stage is governed by a part of the ANS called the parasympathetic.
The parasympathetic branch of the ANS tries to return the body to normal by reducing the amount of cortisol produced. The heart rate and blood pressure begin to return to normal.
If the stressful situation comes to an end, during the resistance stage, the body will then return to normal.
However, if the stressor remains, the body will stay in a state of alert, and stress hormones continue to be produced.
This physical response can lead to a person struggling to concentrate and becoming irritable.

Exhaustion stage

After an extended period of stress, the body goes into the final stage of GAS, known as the exhaustion stage. At this stage, the body has depleted its energy resources by continually trying but failing to recover from the initial alarm reaction stage.

Once it reaches the exhaustion stage, a person’s body is no longer equipped to fight stress. They may experience:
• tiredness
• depression
• anxiety
• feeling unable to cope

If a person does not find ways to manage stress levels at this stage, they are at risk of developing stress-related health conditions…. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320172#the-three-stages-of-gas

An important research question is why some individuals are more resilient when dealing with illness?

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