The burden of stress and stress-related diseases
Stress contributes to expenditures of hundreds of billions of dollars in health care and lost productivity costs. Chronic stress may lead to the onset, development, or progression of many disease processes including depression, anxiety, chronic pain, drug/alcohol abuse, and/or dysfunctions in sleep, appetite, and energy. These stress-related diseases account for 60-90% of all primary care visits. Furthermore, two‐thirds of chronic illness is caused by lifestyle and behavioral factors that are influenced by our mental, social or physical environments.
While conventional medicine excels in emergency situations, its effectiveness for management of lifestyle-related illnesses is questionable.
Ramifications for our nation’s military and veterans
Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) have placed “unprecedented demands on our Armed Forces and military families.” Asymmetric and guerrilla warfare, protracted conflicts requiring multiple deployments and prolonged exposure to combat stress present new challenges.
The “signature wounds” of OIF/OEF include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and mental health comorbidities. Nearly 20% of returning veterans report a probable TBI, and high rates of PTSD and depression are accompanied in nearly half the cases by alcohol abuse or aggressive behavior comorbidity. Suicide rates have doubled among Marines in the last three years, and they remain over double the national average among Army personnel.
MMR research on stress and related disorders
Research in this MMR thematic area focuses on developing and testing novel approaches for more effectively preventing and treating stress-related illnesses—approaches that can buffer stress, empower individuals to re-assume control of health, leverage powerful inner resources such as belief and intention, and offer an alternative for those who do not refuse, delay, or feel stigmatized by conventional mental health treatments.
A newer focus is on the potential cost savings of this approach for management of stress and related disorders. An increasing number of studies, including randomized clinical trials, have shown that for many chronic illnesses, self-care interventions (for example) can be more effective and cost less than conventional care.
Learn more about Samueli Institute’s efforts to learn more about and combat stress: