Sunday, February 3, 2013

Is stress related to location?

I found this week’s readings to be quite interesting. I had known that stress could affect physical health, as in the noted case of higher levels of illness around final exams (242). However, I did not know that psychological stress leads to high levels of cortisol release and that these were associated with numerous negative health effects not limited to immune deficiency, but as well including, “cognitive impairment, inhibited growth, delayed sexual maturity, damage to the hippocampus, enhanced sensitivity of amygdala fear circuits, and psychological maladjustment” (247-8). The study presented in the text tracked the cortisol levels and stressors of children in a small Dominican village. While I read, I wondered as to how stress/cortisol levels would be affected by shifting the parameters of the study to different spatial and cultural contexts. While I think that in contemporary American society, there is, to some degree, an idyllic image of non-urbanized child rearing, I wonder if these different locations (urban vs. rural/suburban) would have any effect on cortisol levels/stress in children. While rural life seems as though it would be more peaceful, it also seems that many of the effects noted in the study happened socially, within the family and friend group, and seemed to reflect quite little on the spatial context. However, I think the issue is confounded by potential stressors that are not present in the village detailed, such as stress from more competitive and demanding educational opportunities in urbanized areas. Further, as child rearing differs culturally, I think it would be interesting to see how stressors affect children’s cortisol levels cross culturally.

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