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Stress, Health and Disease


Admission requirements

Recommended knowledge:

  • Introduction to Psychology

  • Personality, Clinical Health Psychology

NB. This course is an admission requirement for the courses that deepen the students’ knowledge in ‘Health Psychology and Psychopathology’, and ‘Diagnostics and Treatment’.


The last 40 years have seen a significant increase in research into stress. Stress is a major problem in modern society, and it has therefore become one of the key topics in clinical health psychology. Stressors are external events or situations that influence the individual. They can lead to a wide range of physical and psychiatric problems. There are differences in the way that people react to a particular stressor. The cognitive interpretation of a stressor in particular determines the relationship between a potential stressor and the consequences it has on the individual’s health. The use of one or more coping strategies is also important when it comes to regulating emotions. The effects of stress can vary from small behavioural changes to clinical conditions, and can be physical and mental.

The lectures will focus on psychological and biological stress models. With regard to health psychology, the focus will be on stress as a precipitating and maintaining factor in somatic disease. Important topics covered here will include the evolutionary origins of the stress response and what it means in modern human society, and the effects of emotions on the human body, including the immune system. With regard to clinical psychology, the focus will be on the relationship between major life events and the development and continuation of depression and trauma-related psychopathology. The course will also cover different methods of treatment such as stress management and coping with trauma. The course is also an excellent preparation for students who wish to specialise in ‘Cognitive Neuroscience’ as part of the Research Master’s programme in Psychology.

Course objectives

  • Students will acquire knowledge of psychological and biological models of stress and stress-related disorders, particularly the evolutionary origin and physical effects of the stress response, the influence of stress on depression and trauma-related psychopathology, and methods of treatment.

  • In a systematic review of the academic literature, students will answer a research question addressing a real social problem.

  • Students will give an oral presentation on this review and lead a discussion/debate.


Stress, Health and Disease (2013-2014):

Mode of instruction

There are 10 lectures, some of which will address themes in Health Psychology and others themes of a more clinical nature (see description). There are five compulsory work group sessions in which students will address a practical question (health psychology and clinical psychology) in a scientific way, and thus using the latest literature. The students will work together on an oral presentation here. There will be plenty of work to do between the sessions, some of which will be in sub-groups.


A written multiple-choice examination and a presentation in the work group. Attendance of the work group sessions is compulsory.
The examination and the work groups are separate: students who fail one do not need to retake the other. The final grade for the course is the weighted average of the grades for the examination and the work group (50%/50%). Students must pass both, however (5.5 or higher).

The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences implemented the Ephorus system on 1 January 2006, for use by instructors for the systematic detection of plagiarism in students’ written work. 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.

  • Patricia A. Resick. (2001), Stress and Trauma (Clinical Psychology, A Modular Course), Psychology Press Hove

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.



Registration for the course is compulsory. Registration for the work groups is on a first come, first served basis. If a particular work group session is full, students will have to attend it at another time.


Registration for examinations and resits is compulsory. Students can register via uSis from 100 to 10 calendar days before the examination date. Students who do not register on time will not be allowed to sit the (re)examination


Dr. J.F. Brosschot
Room 2B37
Tel.: +31 (0)71 527 3740