Stressing the importance of stress beliefs
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 00:12 by Christopher J. Kilby
Most individuals experience acute stress. This can lead to both positive and negative health consequences often in the same domain. For example, stress can be a risk factor or a protective factor against cardiovascular disease. These differences may arise from different evaluations, or appraisals, of stressful situations. These appraisals lead to different behavioural, emotional, and physiological responses to stress. One factor that could influence appraisals may be stress beliefs. However, little research has explored this link. This thesis addressed this gap via systematic reviews, qualitative studies, experimental research, and by developing a new stress belief scale. A systematic review of predictors of appraisals highlighted a need for research on stress beliefs and appraisals. A stress induction study (N = 117) found no association between stress beliefs and appraisals. A systematic review and a qualitative study (N = 35) of stress beliefs were then conducted. Results suggested that current stress belief measures do not assess all stress beliefs. As such, this thesis focuses on the development of a new stress belief measure; the Subjective Thoughts REgarding Stress Scale (STRESS). A Delphi study with experts in stress research (N = 14) confirmed the completeness of the qualitative study results. A pilot study of the original 78 items of the STRESS in an international lay sample (N = 107) confirmed all items were commonly held beliefs. Exploratory factor analysis (N = 419) and confirmatory factor analysis (N = 300) resulted in a final 19-item scale. The scale contains three subscales: beliefs about the i) Consequences of stress, ii) Coping Efficacy, and iii) Interpersonal Relations in stress. A final stress induction study (N = 137) demonstrated the predictive validity of the STRESS, with the STRESS successfully predicting the stressor appraisals made of the stress induction. This thesis has reconceptualised the notion of stress beliefs, resulting in a new multi-dimensional measure of stress beliefs. The new measure successfully predicts the appraisals9made of a standardised stress induction. This will allow future research to use this scale to further explore the role of stress beliefs in the subjective stress response. In turn, it is now possible for future research to explore the link between stress beliefs and differences in stress-related health outcomes.