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Psychology of Stress and Health


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

Introduction to Psychology


Stress is a major determinant of global public health. Stress has been called a “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization and is associated with large humanitarian, medical and economic costs. This course will introduce the basic principles of how our health is threatened by diverse psychosocial stressors such as daily worries, work/study stress, illnesses, and natural disasters. A major focus will be on psychological factors such as stress appraisals, self-efficacy, perceived control, perceived social support, personality characteristics and emotions. The lectures will cover the many ways in which the mind influences the body during stress, including the cardiovascular system and the brain, and influences of ageing and sex differences thereof. We will discuss stress in relation to chronic diseases and also cover recent stress management techniques that can be offered. Finally, a broader perspective is taken in which stress as a societal problem will be discussed. Stress is not a 'luxury problem' of the industrialized countries, but is also, and perhaps even more so, a leading health risk in less developed countries. Therefore, we will also explore the global relevance of stress and health.

Lecture themes per week:

Week 1. Introduction into the psychology of: stress: mechanisms and theories
Week 2. Stress and the heart
Week 3. Stress and the brain
Week 4. Stress and the workplace
Week 5. Stress in relation to chronic diseases
Week 6. Stress management
Week 7. Stress as a societal problem

Course Objectives

The student understands:

  1. The major psycho-biological mechanisms underlying acute and chronic stress responses;
  2. How the mind can influence the body and stress can threaten health;
  3. The role of symptom perception in the development of chronic diseases;
  4. The main approaches to stress management.

The student is able to:

  1. Systematically gather information about stress and health and evaluate this knowledge in terms of its meaning for national or global public health;
  2. Report results of such a literature search in a concise and coherent manner and present this orally;
  3. Critically discuss controversial topics in stress research.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course will consist of two x two-hour weekly seminars, which will be delivered through a combination of lectures, group presentations, class discussion and debates. The first meeting in each week will consist of a lecture focusing on one major topic in stress and health. The materials from the lectures and the associated compulsory reading will serve as preparation for the final exam. The second weekly meetings will be dedicated to interactive discussions of various contemporary questions about stress and health in society by means of assignments consisting of written essays and a report, group debates and a group presentation. Topics that will be discussed in these interactive sessions are amongst others vulnerable groups, changes across the lifecycle and controversial claims.

Assessment Method

  • In-class participation weeks 1-7: 10% (learning aim 7)

  • Essay assignments for meetings 3.2, 4.2, 6.2: 15% (learning aim 5)

  • Final report and presentation of a literature search for meeting 5.2: 10% report, 15% presentation, total 25% (learning aim 6)

  • Presentation in discussion panels for meeting 2.2 and 7.2: 10% (learning aim 7)

  • Final exam: 40% (learning aims 1-4)

All assignments are due 2 days before the class starts, and need to be handed in at 20:00 at the latest.

All written assignments will be checked for plagiarism.

Reading list

Selected articles which will be provided via Brightspace.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Prof. dr. H.E. Hulst,
Dr. D.S. Veldhuijzen,