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Stress, Health and Disease (IBP)


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

Entry requirements

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


The past 40 years have witnessed a large increase in research on psychological stress. What is more, psychological stress, or stress for short, is one of the major problems facing modern society. Stress is therefore one of the current main topics in health psychology.

Stressors are external events or situations that influence people and can cause a wide range of physical, emotional and cognitive problems. There are, however, differences in how people react to a given stressor. In particular, the cognitive interpretation of a stressor determines the relationship between a potential stressor and its consequences for a person’s health. The effects of stressors can vary from minor effects on the emotions and cognitive performance to clinical syndromes, both physical and psychological.

The lectures cover psychological and biological models of stress, with a focus on stress as the cause and sustaining factor of somatic diseases and symptoms. Important topics include the evolutionary origin of the stress response and its significance for modern human society, and the effects of emotions on the human body and the immune system. The lectures cover various types of stressor such as major life events, work-related stress, everyday problems, the phenomena of worry and subconscious stress, and the risk of somatic diseases such as anxiety and depression.

Stress is also a strongly interdisciplinary subject that has given rise to many different ideas, definitions and formulations both within and beyond psychology, for instance in such fields as biomedical sciences. Stress is therefore an ideal topic with which to further develop the academic skill of systematic literature review.

Course objectives

Students will acquire:

  • Knowledge and understanding of the main psychological and biological models of stress and stress management, in particular the evolutionary roots and physical effects of the stress response, as well as its effect on disease and medically unexplained physical symptoms;

  • The ability to answer a research question on a problem in society concerning the impact of stress on disease and physical symptoms by performing a systematic review of scientific literature and compiling a review of the empirical findings; and

  • The ability to formulate and give an oral presentation on this review and hold a discussion or debate on the conclusions.


For the timetables of your lectures, workgroups, and exams, select your study programme.
Psychology timetables



Students need to register for lectures, workgroups and exams.
Instructions for registration in courses for the 2nd and 3rd year of the IBP

For information on registration periods consult the bachelor course 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 2-hour lectures, as well as 6 (Note: no longer 5!) compulsory work group sessions in which students are asked to answer a practical question in an academic manner, i.e. using state of the art literature. These work-group sessions culminate in an oral presentation. Students are expected to do a lot of work in smaller groups in between the sessions.

Assessment method

A written multiple-choice examination and a presentation in the work-group sessions. Attendance of all work group sessions is compulsory. The examination materials consist of the reading list and the lecture materials. 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 (60%) and for the work group sessions (40%).Regulations on grade calculation.

The Faculty of Social and Behavioural 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.

Reading list

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) Course Reader ‘Psychology of Stress, Health and Disease’ including a few articles on the subject (to be made available on Blackboard).

Contact information

Dr. Jos F. Brosschot