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Personality and Gender Effects on Stress Levels

In 1976 Frakenhaeuser (et al) conducted a study into how the difference between genders affects how stressors affect the body. Frakenhaeuser (et al) took a group of boys as well as a group of girls and as they went through a stressful life event, in this case a school exam period, they took urine samples from each group to record the levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline within the bloodstream.

The results of the urine samples allowed them to find out that boys would experience a larger increase of hormonal activity during stress than the girls, but also this increase would take a longer period of time to correct itself. They also were able to find out the results from the exams were the same for both groups, as was the levels of anxiety and stress. From these findings they were able to draw up the conclusions that males were able to react faster to stress, however it is females who are able to cope better with stress as their hormonal activity was hardly affected by the stressors; thus females tend to be more hardy to the effects of stress.

Although the study in not without fault. Frakenheauser’s conclusion suggests that males are more likely to develop stress-related illnesses, yet there is a lack of evidence in support this suggestion meaning that the results from the study may have been misinterpreted. Also stress management techniques has a tendency to differ between the sexes; males prefer to opt for the more active, physical approach to handling stress by using exercise. It is a well-known fact that physical exercise released increased levels of adrenaline into the bloodstream which would therefore account for the raised levels during the exam period. Whereas females prefer to opt for a more passive, social approach to handling stress by socializing with friendship networks, social groups and support groups, this option doesn’t have any affect on the body’s biochemistry but instead shuts off the sympathetic nerves in the autonomic-nervous-system allowing the parasympathetic to continue relay messages as the body remains in a relaxed state. Because of this the assumptions made from the study about how vulnerable people are to stress is risky.
On the other hand there is strength to be found in the study. Mainly it is a significant piece of evidence describing how individual differences, such as personality and gender can change the effects stressors have on us.

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