According to a recent study led by Parul Sood of the School of biological Sciences and the National Institute of Science Education and Research at the Institute of Physics Campus in India, stress can be accurately and effectively measured using molecular and survey tools. Stress is a highly prevalent condition across the globe. Because it is so closely associated with poor physical health, disease progression, and psychological maladjustment, assessing high stress levels quickly can expedite early treatment.
But the existing tools used to measure psychological stress (PS) are time consuming, inconclusive, or highly subjective. Blood sampling can be a quick and valuable tool for assessing certain protein and metabolic markers of stress. But underlying conditions and life events are rarely considered when assessing the results. Likewise, questionnaires pertaining to life circumstances can provide some insight into stress and stress causes, but individuals often withhold information or answer in relation to a particular situation and not in general terms.
To address these inconsistencies, Sood chose to focus on molecular biomarkers in combination with responses to questionnaires to gauge stress in a sample of 135 adults between the ages of 18 and 55 years old. The participants completed questionnaires pertaining to general tasks and were physically evaluated while completing everyday activities. Their blood was examined for specific biomarkers that could indicate elevated stress levels. In all, the participants’ responses to the questionnaires corroborated the stress levels indicated by the molecular biomarkers.
Sood found that the participants with the highest levels of daily stress based on their survey responses also had the highest levels of stress-related biomarkers. Similarly, those with the lowest stress levels on the surveys had the fewest stress-related biomarkers on the blood panels. Sood also considered other psychological factors such as depression and anxiety and found that these contributed to overall stress scores.
Interestingly, despite these coexisting conditions, specific molecular indicators were still common among all of the stressed participants. “Thus,” added Sood, “All the profiles imply a change at systemic levels of a stressed individual which might result in its predisposition to diseases.” These findings provide evidence that molecular biomarkers can be a valuable and objective way to identify those at risk for stress. Further, biomarker results can be substantiated by personal interviews and questionnaires.
Sood, P., Priyadarshini, S., Aich, P. (2013). Estimation of psychological stress in humans: A combination of theory and practice. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63044. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063044
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