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Stress, Health and Disease (IBP)


Students of the Dutch bachelor’s programme, see Stress, gezondheid en ziekte

Admission requirements

Recommended knowledge:

  • Introduction to Psychology

  • Personality, Clinical Health Psychology


The last 40 years have seen a significant increase in research into psychological stress. In addition, due to the fact that psychological stress (stress for short) is a major problem in modern society, it has also become one of the key topics in clinical and health psychology.
Stressors are external events or situations that influence the individual and may lead to a wide range of physical, emotional and cognitive problems. There are individual differences in the way people react to a particular stressor. In particular, the cognitive interpretation of a stressor determines the relationship between a potential stressor and the consequences it has on the individual’s health. The effects of stress can vary from small effects on the emotions and cognitive performance to clinical conditions, both physical and psychological.

The lectures cover both psychological and biological stress models, with a particular focus on stress as the cause and maintaining factor of somatic diseases and symptoms. Important topics covered include the evolutionary origins of the stress response and their significance for modern human society, as well as the effects of emotions on the human body, including the immune system. The course covers different types of stressors, including major life events, work stress, daily problems, and the phenomena of rumination and subconscious stress. The course also covers the risk of somatic disease brought on by stress-related psychopathology, such as anxiety disorders and depression. The course is also an excellent preparation for students who wish to specialise in Cognitive Neuroscience in the context of the Research Master’s programme in Psychology.

Course objectives

  • Students acquire knowledge and understanding of the most important psychological and biological models of stress and stress management, particularly the evolutionary origin and physical effects of the stress response, as well as its influence on disease, and physical symptoms with no medical explanation.

  • Students gain the ability to answer a research question addressing a real social issue on the effect of stress on disease and physical symptoms, on the basis of a systematic investigation of the academic literature and the formulation of a review of empirical findings.

  • Students learn to formulate and give an oral presentation on this review and lead a discussion/debate on the accompanying conclusions.


Stress, Health and Disease (2014-2015):



Students need to enroll for lectures and work group sessions. Please consult the Instructions registration


Students are not automatically enrolled for an examination. They can register via uSis from 100 to 10 calendar days before the date; students who are not registered will not be permitted to take the examination. Registering for exams

Mode of instruction

The course consists of 8 lectures, as well as five compulsory work group sessions, each of which addresses a practice-oriented question and answers it in a scientific manner, i.e. making use of state of the art literature. In the work group sessions, students also prepare for their oral presentation. In addition, students are expected to do a lot of work between the sessions, some of which is completed in sub-groups.


Regulations on grade calculation for compulsory courses of the second year

A written multiple-choice examination and a presentation in the work group. Work group attendance is compulsory. The examination material consists of the assigned reading and the lecture material. The examination and the work groups are independent of one another: students who fail one do not have to retake the other. The final grade for the course consists of the average of the examination grade (60%) and the work group grade (40%). Both grades have to be 5.0 or higher.

The Faculty of Social Sciences has instituted that instructors use a software programme for the systematic detection of plagiarism in students’ written work. In case of fraud disciplinary actions will be taken. Please see the information concerning fraud


See Blackboard for communication, lecture slides etc.


  • Robert Sapolsky. (2004). “Why zebras don’t get ulcers” An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping. W H Freeman & Co updated.

  • Jos F. Brosschot (2014). Reader Course ‘Psychology of Stress, Health and Disease’ (to appear on Blackboard)

Study book service

Members of the Labyrint study association can purchase the books at a reduced rate from the Labyrint study book service on producing their Labryint membership card. Alternatively, there are the academic bookshops.


Dr. J.F. Brosschot
Room 2B37
Tel.: +31 (0)71 527 3740
E-Mail: brosschot@fsw.leidenuniv.nl

If absent, contact C.S. Ramsaran MSc