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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 and 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

At the end of the course, the student can:

  • describe how different types of stressors can be related to health and disease;

  • list the basic psychobiology that underlies acute and chronic stress responses

  • describe which stress-management techniques exist to prevent or decrease stress or its negative consequences;

  • conduct a systematic literature study on the association between stress and health using a single, complex key word profile;

  • provide, and report on, a scientifically controllable and reproducible answer to a question on the association between stress and health;

  • reflect on the use and usefulness of different stress-management techniques.


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.


You must register for each exam in My Studymap at least 10 days before the exam date. Don’t forget! For more information, see the enrolment procedure.
You cannot take an exam without a valid registration 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 2-hour work group sessions in which students are, among other things, asked to provide a scientific answer to a question concerning the association between stress and health by means of a state-of-the-art literature review. Additionally, different stress-management techniques will be introduced and practiced with. Students will work in-between the work-group sessions on (individual and group) assignments.

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. 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. In addition, the student becomes acquainted with several stress management techniques.

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. All students are required to take and pass the Scientific Integrity Test with a score of 100% in order to learn about the practice of integrity in scientific writing. Students are given access to the quiz via a module on Brightspace. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of these three policies.

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 Brightspace).

Contact information

Dr. Henriët van Middendorp
Dr. Juriena de Vries