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New & Notable Stress Science 

Here we highlight papers our network views as new and interesting additions to the literature. You can nominate papers to be included here.

 

Papers are sorted by year and then alphabetically by first author. Those highlighted in green are the winners of our 2023 Stress Science Paper of the Year Award. To learn more about the award process, visit the Stress Science Award page here

Effectiveness of stress management interventions to change cortisol levels: a systematic review and meta-analysis  

In this systematic review and meta-analysis, Rogerson et al. (2024) examined the effects of stress management interventions—including mind body therapies, mindfulness, relaxation, or talk therapies—on cortisol levels across 58 studies involving 3508 participants. They found that mindfulness and relaxation interventions were most effective at changing cortisol levels, and that these effects were observed more often in studies that assessed cortisol awakening responses than diurnal levels.

 

Rogerson, O., Wilding, S., Prudenzi, A., & O'Connor, D. B. (2024). Effectiveness of stress management interventions to change cortisol levels: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 159, 106415. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2023.106415  

Psychological stress and the longitudinal progression of subclinical atherosclerosis

Spencer et al. (2024) examined associations between changes in psychological stress and progression of subclinical atherosclerosis (assessed via carotid artery intima-media) in a sample of healthy midlife adults (N = 260). They identified that increases in self-reported perceived stress over time were associated with corresponding increases in levels of preclinical atherosclerosis.  This study advances the science of stress and health by showing the effects of accumulated perceived stress over time on the early development of heart disease.  

 

Spencer C, Reed RG, Votruba-Drzal E, Gianaros PJ. (2024). Psychological stress and the longitudinal progression of subclinical atherosclerosis. Health Psychol. 43(1):58-66. doi: 10.1037/hea0001333. Epub 2023 Nov 2. PMID: 37917469.

Longitudinal Change in Daily Stress Across 20 Years of Adulthood: Results From the National Study of Daily Experiences

In one of the largest longitudinal stress studies to date, Almeida et al. (2023) examined age-related patterns in exposure and reactivity to daily stressors across 20-years among adults aged 22-77. Using longitudinal data from the National Study of Daily Experiences (N = 2,845; number of daily assessments = 33,688), they found that younger adults (<30 years) experienced the highest stress levels, which improved with age. Over time, adults averaged an 11% reduction in the occurrence of stressor days, and a 47% reduction in stress reactivity (for younger adults). For those aged 54 and older, stress reactivity remained stable over time, while stressor frequency continued to decrease. These results suggest a habituation process of adaptation to stress as individuals age. 

 

Almeida, D. M., Rush, J., Mogle, J., Piazza, J. R., Cerino, E., & Charles, S. T. (2023). Longitudinal change in daily stress across 20 years of adulthood: Results from the national study of daily experiences. Developmental Psychology, 59(3), 515–523. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0001469

Cellular allostatic load is linked to increased energy expenditure and accelerated biological aging

WINNER OF THE STRESS SCIENCE PAPER OF THE YEAR CONTEST! CATEGORY: BASIC RESEARCH/ANIMAL MODELS

 

Bobba-Alves et al., (2023) examined the impact of chronic stress on bioenergetics and cellular aging processes. By longitudinally profiling three human fibroblast lines, the authors identified hypermetabolism as a central manifestation of allostatic load. Chronic glucocorticoid exposure increased cellular energy expenditure by 60%, emphasizing the extra energetic cost of chronic stress at the cellular level. In turn, this stress-induced hypermetabolism was linked with an accelerated aging phenotype (including epigenetic and telomere aging).

 

Bobba-Alves, N., Sturm, G., Lin, J., Ware, S. A., Karan, K. R., Monzel, A. S., Bris, C., Procaccio, V., Lenaers, G., Higgins-Chen, A., Levine, M., Horvath, S., Santhanam, B. S., Kaufman, B. A., Hirano, M., Epel, E., & Picard, M. (2023). Cellular allostatic load is linked to increased energy expenditure and accelerated biological aging. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 155, 106322. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2023.106322

Examining the Role of Emotion Differentiation on Emotion and Cardiovascular Physiological Activity During Acute Stress

Bonar et al. (2023) examined how individual differences in emotion differentiation (i.e., the tendency to experience one’s emotions with specificity) may influence psychological and physiological experiences of stress during a controlled, laboratory-based acute stressor (N = 195 healthy young adults). They found that greater negative emotion differentiation (but not positive emotion differentiation) was associated with less intense self-reported negative, high arousal affect during the stressor, but also greater sympathetic reactivity (indexed via cardiac pre-ejection period). Preliminary evidence also suggested that participants high in negative emotion differentiation made fewer self-focused attributions about their performance on the social stress task. These data suggest that people with higher negative emotion differentiation may experience their emotions as more manageable even when experiencing higher physiological reactivity to a stressor.  

 

Bonar, A. S., MacCormack, J. K., Feldman, M.J., & Lindquist, K. A. (2023). Examining the Role of Emotion Differentiation on Emotion and Cardiovascular Physiological Activity During Acute Stress. Affective Science, 4(2), 317–331. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42761-023-00189-y

Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Mental Health and Brain Maturation in Adolescents: Implications for Analyzing Longitudinal Data

To explore how adolescent mental health and brain structure may have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gotlib et al. (2023) compared adolescents assessed before the COVID-19 pandemic (n = 81) to adolescents assessed after COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns ended (n = 82; matched on age, sex, puberty, exposure to early life stress, and socioeconomic status). Adolescents who were assessed after the COVID-19 pandemic had more severe internalizing mental health problems, greater cortical thinning, larger bilateral hippocampal and amygdala volumes, and more advanced brain age compared to adolescents assessed before the COVID-19 pandemic. Although correlational, this study suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic may have meaningful impacts not just on mental health but also on early signs of brain aging.  Lastly, these findings of a pandemic effect on brain structure should be considered by researchers who analyze longitudinal studies of "normative development" that include the pandemic years. 

 

Gotlib, I.H., Miller, J.G., Borchers, L.R., Coury, S.M., Costello, L.A., Garcia, J.M., & Ho, T.C. (2023). Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and brain maturation in adolescents: Implications for analyzing longitudinal data. Biological Psychiatry: Global Open Science, 3, 912-918. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsgos.2022.11.002

The role of stress phenotypes in understanding childhood adversity as a transdiagnostic risk factor for psychopathology

Childhood adversity is a significant risk factor for psychopathology, contributing to a substantial percentage of childhood-onset and adult-onset disorders, yet these links are challenging to study because childhood adversity increases risk through a range of mechanisms and not all individuals exposed to adversity develop psychopathology. Hostinar et al. (2023) propose a theoretical framework to better understand these pathways from childhood adversity to psychopathology by modeling stress phenotypes and biobehavioral patterns in response to stressors, noting that these psychological, behavioral and biological responses during states of stress seem to be better predictors of psychopathology.  The framework is comprehensive in that it predicts internalizing, externalizing, and resilience, through four different phenotypic dimensions (affective, behavioral, cognitive, and somatic). This framework should be very useful for both understanding outcomes over time but also customizing treatments and predicting responses.

 

Hostinar, C. E., Swartz, J. R., Alen, N. V., Guyer, A. E., & Hastings, P. D. (2023). The role of stress phenotypes in understanding childhood adversity as a transdiagnostic risk factor for psychopathology. Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science, 132(3), 277–286. https://doi.org/10.1037/abn0000619

Network stressors, personal stressors, and ambulatory blood pressure in African-American women—Does superwoman schema play a role?

WINNER OF THE STRESS SCIENCE PAPER OF THE YEAR CONTEST! CATEGORY: HUMAN EMPIRICAL/CLINICAL

Lewis and colleagues (2023) distinguished between personal stressors and network stressors (i.e., those having to do with family members and friends) in predicting elevated blood pressure in African-American women, finding that network stressors were predictive, whereas personal stressors were not. These findings highlight the interdependence among communities and suggest that mitigating the heightened rates of blood pressure (BP) and hypertension among African-American women will likely require broader systemic and community-level change. 

 

Lewis, T. T., Parker, R., Murden, R., Spikes, T., Erving, C., McKinnon, I. I., Van Dyke, M. E., Booker, B., Quyummi, A., Vaccarino, V., & Moore, R. H. (2023). Network stressors, personal stressors, and ambulatory blood pressure in African-American women—Does superwoman schema play a role? Health Psychology, 42(7), 485–495. https://doi.org/10.1037/hea0001309

Blunted Glucocorticoid Responsiveness to Stress Causes Behavioral and Biological Alterations That Lead to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Vulnerability

Monari et al. (2023) used a genetically-selected rat model characterized by reduced corticosterone responsiveness to stress to shed light on the potential role of cortisol in explaining why only some trauma-exposed individuals develop PTSD. They found that blunted glucocorticoid responsiveness led to impaired fear extinction, smaller hippocampal volume, and disturbances to rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep. They also demonstrated that fear extinction deficits and concomitant disruptions in REM could be normalized through postextinction corticosterone administration, causally implicating glucocorticoid deficiency in two core PTSD-related risk factors and manifestations. These findings demonstrate a causal link implicating glucocorticoids in sustaining neurophysiological disturbances leading to fear extinction deficits. This study may have translational relevance to humans and clinical or pharmacological strategies for PTSD. 

Monari S., Guillot de Suduiraut, I., Grosse, J., Zanoletti, O., Walker S.E., Mesquita, M., Wood, T.C., Cash, D., Astori, S., Sandi, C. (2023). Blunted Glucocorticoid Responsiveness to Stress Causes Behavioral and Biological Alterations That Lead to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Vulnerability. Biol Psychiatry. Sep 23:S0006-3223(23)01590-1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2023.09.015

Psychometric evaluation of an adapted version of the perceived stress scale for ecological momentary assessment research

Murray et al., (2023) validated an EMA-adapted Perceived Stress Scale to measure stress as it is experienced in daily life. The study confirmed the tool's consistency and accuracy in capturing stress levels. These findings support the use of this adapted version to better understand the influences of momentary stress in the general population. 

Murray, A. L., Xiao, Z., Zhu, X., Speyer, L. G., Yang, Y., Brown, R. H., Katus, L., Eisner, M., & Ribeaud, D. (2023). Psychometric evaluation of an adapted version of the perceived stress scale for ecological momentary assessment research. Stress and Health. https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.3229

Parental Preconception Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms and Maternal Prenatal Inflammation Prospectively Predict Shorter Telomere Length in Children

Rinne et al. (2023) identified that mother's (n = 127) PTSD symptoms prior to conception were associated with shorter telomere length in their children during early childhood (age 4 years old). Though not statistically significant, there was a similar association between father's PTSD symptoms and child telomere length in a smaller sample (n = 84). In addition, they tested for an effect of maternal pregnancy inflammation on offspring telomere length.  They found maternal second trimester blood CRP levels were inversely associated with early childhood telomere length. These findings point to important mechanisms in intergenerational stress transmission—both psychological distress and inflammation—for potentially influencing child telomere length.   Telomere length shortens more dramatically early in life, and lengths then tend to track through life, emphasizing the importance of these early determinants.  

 

Rinne, G. R., Carroll, J. E., Guardino, C. M., Shalowitz, M. U., Ramey, S. L., & Schetter, C. D. (2023). Parental preconception posttraumatic stress symptoms and maternal prenatal inflammation prospectively predict shorter telomere length in children. Psychosomatic Medicine, 10-1097. https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0000000000001241

Computing Components of Everyday Stress Responses: Exploring Conceptual Challenges and New Opportunities

WINNER OF THE STRESS SCIENCE PAPER OF THE YEAR CONTEST! CATEGORY: THEORY/MEASUREMENT

Smyth et al., (2022) offer a useful discussion of strategies, challenges, implications, and limitations when designing a within-persons study of stress-response dynamics in everyday life. The authors distinguish between reactivity, recovery, and pileup before moving into critical issues such as defining a baseline in everyday life, operationalizing reactivity, recovery, and pileup, in addition to discussing data and design issues that researchers should consider.

 

Smyth, J. M., Zawadzki, M. J., Marcusson-Clavertz, D., Scott, S. B., Johnson, J. A., Kim, J., Toledo, M. J., Stawski, R. S., Sliwinski, M. J., & Almeida, D. M. (2023). Computing Components of Everyday Stress Responses: Exploring Conceptual Challenges and New Opportunities. Perspectives on psychological science,18(1), 110–124. https://doi.org/10.1177/17456916221082108

Parenting practices may buffer the impact of adversity on epigenetic age acceleration among young children with developmental delays

Sullivan et al. (2023) examined associations between parenting characteristics and epigenetic age acceleration in a sample of children (N = 62) who were exposed to adversity and present with developmental delays and externalizing behavior. When parents increased positive parenting practices and decreased negative parenting practices over the study period (1.5 years later), adversity-exposed children had slower epigenetic aging. This study points to the importance of parenting practices on the biological health of at-risk children. 

 

Sullivan, A. D., Bozack, A. K., Cardenas, A., Comer, J. S., Bagner, D. M., Forehand, R., & Parent, J. (2023). Parenting Practices May Buffer the Impact of Adversity on Epigenetic Age Acceleration Among Young Children With Developmental Delays. Psychological Science, 34(10), 1173-1185. https://doi.org/10.1177/09567976231194221

Psychological Resilience: An Affect-Regulation Framework

Troy et al. (2023) propose a new affect-regulation framework of psychological resilience that integrates prior mostly separate and siloed literatures on stress and coping,  and on emotion-regulation. This new framework advances our understanding of resilience by integrating existing findings, highlighting gaps in knowledge, and guiding future research. For anyone wanting to understand the field of psychological resilience, this paper is a must read!   

 

Troy, Willroth, Shallcross, Giuliani, Gross, Mauss. (2023). Psychological resilience: An affect-regulation framework. Annual review of psychology, 74, 547-576. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-020122-041854

Social Safety Theory: Conceptual foundation, underlying mechanisms, and future directions

Slavich et al., (2023) propose an integrated, multilevel, and biologically based, evolutionary account for how and why experiences of social safety and social threat are strongly related to health, well-being, aging, and longevity. The theory advances a testable framework for investigating the biopsychosocial roots of health disparities, how health-relevant biopsychosocial processes crystalize over time, and how perceptions of the social environment interact with childhood microbial environment, birth cohort, culture, air pollution, genetics, sleep, diet, personality, and self-harm to affect health. This theory also highlights several interventions for reducing social threat and promoting resilience. 

Slavich, G. M., Roos, L. G., Mengelkoch, S., Webb, C. A., Shattuck, E. C., Moriarity, D. P., & Alley, J. C. (2023). Social Safety Theory: Conceptual foundation, underlying mechanisms, and future directions. Health Psychology Review, 17(1), 5–59. https://doi.org/10.1080/17437199.2023.2171900

Why and how does early adversity influence development? Toward an integrated model of dimensions of environmental experience

Ellis et al., (2022) advance a new explanatory framework that integrates the threat-deprivation and harshness-unpredictability models to situate why, how, and which adverse environmental influences affect development, and how future research might go about systematically testing this model. 

 

Ellis, B. J., Sheridan, M. A., Belsky, J., McLaughlin. K. A. (2021). Why and how does early adversity influence development? Toward an integrated model of dimensions of environmental experience. Dev Psychopathol. May; 34(2):447-471. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579421001838.

The Double Burden of Racial Discrimination in Daily-Life Moments: Increases in Negative Emotions and Depletion of Psychosocial Resources Among Emerging Adult African Americans

Joseph et al., (2020) asked African American young adults to report on experiences of discrimination they confronted in their daily activities in real-time. Daily experiences of racism were common and most likely to occur at work. Both the discrimination they experienced and the discrimination they witnessed led to negative emotions in that moment, and this relationship was stronger for African American young adults living in areas with fewer African American neighbors. Experiencing discrimination also depleted coping resources in that moment, and this relationship was stronger for African American young adults who had experienced more racism in general. 

 

Joseph, N.T., Peterson, L.M., Gordon, H., & Kamarck, T.W. (2021). The double burden of racial discrimination in daily-life moments: Increases in negative emotions and depletion of psychosocial resources among emerging adult African Americans. Cultural diversity & ethnic minority psychology, 27(2), 234–244. https://doi.org/10.1037/cdp0000337

Salivary Alpha-Amylase as a Biomarker of Stress in Behavioral Medicine

Ali and Nater (2020) highlight salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) as a reliable marker of autonomic nervous system function that can be studied basally or in response to stress. The authors also emphasize methodological considerations for researchers who may wish to include sAA assessments in future studies. 

Ali, N., & Nater, U.M. (2020). Salivary Alpha-Amylase as a Biomarker of Stress in Behavioral Medicine. International journal of behavioral medicine, 27(3), 337–342. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-019-09843-x

Stress overload in the spread of coronavirus

Amirkhan (2020) discusses both theoretical and empirical evidence of stress overload being a key factor in illness development and a lens through which we can understand illness disparities. The 10-item Stress Overload Scale-Short is recommended as a valid measure for both research and clinical settings (a) to investigate the role of stress overload in coronavirus and (b) to identify populations who may be particularly impacted by the coronavirus illness.  

 

Amirkhan, J. H. (2020). Stress overload in the spread of coronavirus. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 34(2), 121–129. https://doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2020.1824271

Best practices for stress measurement: How to measure psychological stress in health research

Crosswell and Lockwood (2020) highlight strong evidence for the impact of psychological stress on disease risk. They encourage researchers across disciplines to carefully consider the most relevant operationalization of stress based on the research question to build a comprehensive understanding of the consequences of psychological stress on health and disease. In support of this goal, the authors offer best practices for psychological stress measurement and practical advice for selecting the appropriate measures—considering the critical distinction between stress exposure and stress responses, timescales, and population-specific stressors. We recommend considering the recommendations in this article alongside those made by Epel et al., (2018). 

 

Crosswell, A. D., & Lockwood, K. G. (2020). Best practices for stress measurement: How to measure psychological stress in health research. Health Psychology Open, 7(2), 2055102920933072. https://doi.org/10.1177/2055102920933072

Racial Inequality in Psychology 

Roberts and colleagues (2020) discussed the state of psychological publications that highlight race. Findings emphasize a lack of diversity across all levels of publication from participants to research teams to editors of publications. Differences between subfields of psychology, region of research, and time of publication exist. The authors detail recommendations for both journals (e.g., evaluation of sample demographics, diversity task forces, and publishing diversity statistics) and authors (e.g., justify demographics of samples and have constraints on generality statements).  

Roberts, S. O., Bareket-Shavit, C., Dollins, F. A., Goldie, P. D., & Mortenson, E. (2020). Racial Inequality in Psychological Research: Trends of the Past and Recommendations for the Future. Perspectives on psychological science, 15(6), 1295–1309. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691620927709

Racial Discrimination, the superwomen schema and allostatic load: exploring an integrative stress-coping model among African American women 

Using the superwoman schema—a framework for considering the stressors specific for Black women—Allen et al., (2019) investigated psychosocial stress processes that moderate the impacts of racial discrimination in African American women in the San Francisco Bay Area. Results suggest that feeling obligated to present an image of strength and an obligation to suppress emotions were each protective, whereas feeling an intense motivation to succeed and feeling an obligation to help others exacerbated the independent health risk associated with experiencing racial discrimination.   

Allen, A. M., Wang, Y., Chae, D. H., Price, M. M., Powell, W., Steed, T. C., Rose Black, A., Dhabhar, F. S., Marquez-Magaña, L., & Woods-Giscombe, C. L. (2019). Racial discrimination, the superwoman schema, and allostatic load: exploring an integrative stress-coping model among African American women. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1457(1), 104–127. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.14188

Racism and Health: Challenges and Futures Directions in Behavioral and Psychological Research 

Using three domains, Neblett (2019) discusses the challenges and offers recommendations to accurately include racism in health research. These domains include investigating differing levels of racism rather than just individual, measurement of racism, and identifying mechanisms and pathways through which racism is related to health outcomes.  

 

Neblett E. W. (2019). Racism and health: Challenges and future directions in behavioral and psychological research. Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, 25(1), 12–20. https://doi.org/10.1037/cdp0000253

Associations Among Trajectories of Sleep Disturbance, Depressive Symptomology and 24-Hour Urinary Cortisol in HIV+ Women Following a Stress Management Intervention

Women living with HIV experience high levels of depressive symptoms and sleep disturbance. McIntosh et al., (2019) longitudinally modeled changes in sleep disturbance, depressive symptomology, and cortisol output for HIV+ women who took part in a 12-week cognitive behavioral stress management intervention (or control condition). Those receiving the intervention experienced decreases in sleep disturbance and depressive symptomology over time; declines in sleep disturbances then predicted lower cortisol output nine months later. This work identifies sleep disturbance as a behavioral target for cognitive behavioral stress management interventions. 

 

McIntosh, R., Antoni, M., Seay, J., Fletcher, M. A., Ironson, G., Klimas, N., Kumar, M., & Schneiderman, N. (2019). Associations Among Trajectories of Sleep Disturbance, Depressive Symptomology and 24-Hour Urinary Cortisol in HIV+ Women Following a Stress Management Intervention. Behavioral sleep medicine, 17(5), 605–620. https://doi.org/10.1080/15402002.2018.1435545

Generalized Unsafety Theory of Stress: Unsafe Environments and Conditions, and the Default Stress Response

In the Generalized Unsafety Theory of Stress (GUTS), authors Brossschot et al. propose a novel model of stress, which assumes that stress-response systems are active by default, and inhibited by learned safety cues. This model challenges traditional stress-health models, which assume that stress degrades health through repeated activation of acute stress response systems, suggesting instead that prolonged stress responses are not solely triggered by external stressors but are a result of generalized and largely unconscious perceptions of unsafety. The authors argue that this model better accounts for common situations, like loneliness or low social status, where prolonged stress-responding can occur without and apparent stressor. This is a highly influential model and should be taken into account in future stress-physiology studies.  

Brosschot JF, Verkuil B, Thayer JF. Generalized Unsafety Theory of Stress: Unsafe Environments and Conditions, and the Default Stress Response. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Mar 7;15(3):464. https://doi.org//10.3390/ijerph15030464.

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