nl en

Stress, Health and Disease


Students of the Dutch bachelor’s programme, see Stress, Gezondheid en Ziekte

Entry requirements

Students are strongly advised to first complete the ‘Introduction to Psychology’ and Personality, Clinical Health Psychology’ courses.


Psychological stress, or stress in short, is a major problem facing modern society. Stress is, therefore, one of the current main topics in health psychology. The effects of stress can vary from minor effects on the emotions and cognitive performance to clinical syndromes, both physical and psychological.

The course covers psychological and biological models of stress, the drastic effects of emotions on the human body, the evolutionary origin of the stress response, and stress as the cause of somatic diseases and symptoms. Various types of stressors will be discussed, such as major life events, work-related stress, everyday problems, the phenomena of worry and subconscious stress, and the consequences of prolonged stress will be discussed, such as depression and burnout.

No other concept is so ill-defined in or outside science and at the same time so important for our health as stress. Not surprisingly the media – especially internet – are teeming with erroneous information about its effect on health. Therefore, the field of stress and health seems ideal to further develop the academic skill of systematically gathering trustworthy information.

Course objectives

The student understands:

  • why we respond to modern psychosocial stressors with evolutionary ‘old’ bodily responses that can threaten health;

  • the major psychobiological mechanisms underlying acute and chronic stress responses;

  • how the ‘stressed’ mind can influence the whole body and why this can lead to a variety of diseases, pain and other subjective health complaints, including persistent physical symptoms;

  • the role of perseverative cognition such as worry, and ‘unconscious stress’;

  • the major models of work stress;

  • the main approaches to stress management.

The student is able to:

  • distinguish scientifically supported claims from unsupported claims in the media concerning stress and health (and by generalization other topics);

  • systematically find relevant scientific literature using a single, complex keyword profile;

  • using this advanced literature-searching technique, construct a scientific, and thus controllable and reproducible, answer to a question concerning the influence of stress on health;

  • report this answer in a concise and coherent review, presented in

The student has some experience with ‘mobile stress management interventions’.


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable



Students must register themselves for all course components (lectures, tutorials and practicals) they wish to follow. You can register up to 5 days prior to the start of the course. The exception here is that first-year bachelor students are assigned and registered for all components in the first semester or academic year by the administration of their bachelor programme. The programme will communicate to these students for which course components and for which period the registration applies.


It is mandatory for all students, including first-year bachelor students, to register for each exam and to confirm registration for each exam in My Studymap. This is possible up to and including 10 calendar days prior to the examination. You cannot take an exam without a valid pre-registration and confirmation in My Studymap.

Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

Students who take this course as part of a LDE minor or a premaster programme, exchange students and external guest students will be informed by the education administration about the current registration procedure.

Mode of instruction

The course consists of 8 2-hour lectures as well as 6 compulsory work group sessions in which students are asked to answer a question from the community concerning stress and health (of their own choice) in an academic manner, i.e., using state-of-the-art literature. The work-group sessions culminate in an oral presentation. There will be room to practice with some ‘mobile’ stress management techniques. Students are expected to do a considerable amount of work in smaller groups in-between the work group sessions.

Assessment method

The lecture part (theoretical) will be assessed by a written multiple-choice examination, consisting of questions relating to the reading list and the lecture materials.

The work group part (skills) will be assessed by a number of assignments and some questions in the abovementioned examination. Attendance of all work group sessions is compulsory.

The work groups are in principle, as with most other second-year courses, no longer an elaboration, application or rehearsal of materials from the theoretical part, as was the case in many first-year courses: they are a stand-alone part of the course. In the work group sessions an important skill, namely how to search scientific literature, is developed further (building on the ‘Tutorial Academic Skills’ course), with stress and health as a central topic, acting as an example for other psychological subjects.

The examination and the work group sessions are separate: students who fail one are not required to retake the other. The final mark for the course consists of the average of the mark for the examination (70%) and for the work group sessions (30%).

Information about the retake and the inspection of the examination will be communicated via Brightspace in due course.

The Institute of Psychology uses fixed rules for grade calculation and compulsory attendance. It also follows the policy of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences to systematically check student papers for plagiarism with the help of software. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of these three policies.

  • All Semester I bachelor and master psychology courses and examinations (2020-2021) will be offered in an on-line format.

  • If it is safe and possible to do so, supplementary course meetings may be planned on-campus. However, attendance at these meetings will not be required to successfully complete Semester I courses.

  • All obligatory work groups and examinations will be offered on-line during Central European Time, which is local time in the Netherlands.

  • Information on the mode of instruction and the assessment method per course will be offered in Brightspace, considering the possibilities that are available at that moment. The information in Brightspace is leading during the Corona crisis, even if this does not match the information in the Prospectus.

  • At this time it is not possible to provide information about Semester II (2020-2021).

Reading list

  • Robert Sapolsky. (2004). Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping. 3rd edition. New York (NY): Henry Holt and Company.

  • Jos F. Brosschot (2018) Course Reader ‘Psychology of Stress, Health and Disease’ including several articles on the subject (to be made available on Blackboard).

Contact information

Dr. Henriët van Middendorp
Dr. Juriena de Vries