There are so many gems in this Wired piece by Jonah Lehrer; here are a few that leapt out at me:
  • "While stress doesn’t cause any single disease — in fact, the causal link between stress and ulcers has been largely disproved — it makes most diseases significantly worse."
  • "Stress hollows out our bones and atrophies our muscles. It triggers adult-onset diabetes and is a leading cause of male impotence. In fact, numerous studies of human longevity in developed countries have found that psychosocial factors such as stress are the single most important variable in determining the length of a life. It’s not that genes and risk factors like smoking don’t matter. It’s that our levels of stress matter more."
  • "Antibiotics are far less effective when our immune system is suppressed by stress"
  • Stress-reduction tips: have good social relationships with friends and family, get enough sleep, don't fight, meditate, confront fears, drink in moderation, don't force exercise to happen
  • "I can come back 25 years later, when these kids (baboons) are two old matriarchs, and they’ll be acting out the exact same dynamic."
  • "Women developed significantly more heart disease if they performed menial clerical work or when they had an unsupportive boss. The work, in other words, wasn’t the problem. It was the subordination."
  • "One of the most tragic aspects of the stress response is the way it gets hardwired at a young age — an early setback can permanently alter the way we deal with future stressors."
  • "After tracking thousands of civil servants for decades, Marmot was able to demonstrate that between the ages of 40 and 64, workers at the bottom of the hierarchy had a mortality rate four times higher than that of people at the top."
  • "getting promoted from the lowest level in the British civil service reduced the probability of heart disease by up to 13 percentage points. Climbing the social ladder makes us live longer."
  • "The recurring theme in the self-reports of people like Marjorie isn’t the sheer amount of stress — it’s the total absence of control."
  • "But if he or she has a high degree of control over work, it is less stressful and will have less impact on health.” (This helps explain why the women with mean bosses and menial work showed the highest incidence of heart disease.)"
  • "The moral is that the most dangerous kinds of stress don’t feel that stressful. It’s not the late night at the office that’s going to kill us; it’s the feeling that nothing can be done. The person most at risk for heart disease isn’t the high-powered executive anxious about their endless to-do list — it’s the frustrated janitor stuck with existential despair."
  • "There are important individual differences in how people respond to stress,” Gould says. “Soldiers experience lots of stress in war, but most of them won’t get posttraumatic stress disorder. What accounts for those differences? And how can we help the people who are most vulnerable?”


  1. Wow, good article, thanks. I've shared it with others at Google. The information on BAC level vs stress response was especially useful, and sent me looking for a couple of online BAC calculators. (They agree that my Friday night ritual really is relaxing, and likely doesn't make things worse.)

    I find it fascinating how beneficial the sense of having control seems to be to human beings. I'm not sure why that would be so, but the evidence is pretty overwhelming.

  2. agreed! i just now read this and loved it too. the impact of control specifically was a huge insight, but i was also floored by the progress sapolsky has made on his stress vaccine. almost makes me think i shouldn't read about our clinical stuff like this, since i so want it, but it's still years to decades out!