Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

1.3. Explain different ways in which people react to stress

ryanrori February 7, 2021

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We are all different in our make-up from our personalities to the way we manage stress. How we react to our stress is a very individual thing and sometimes events that will not bother us can send us veering into overload.

Explain the relationship between individual differences and reactions to stress with examples


Differences in gender and culture are found to have significant influences on the manner that people respond to stress. 

Researchers Johansson & Post (1972) conducted a study which involved an equal number of male and female participants. They were subjected to a particular non-stressful situation, and were then subjected to a stressful circumstance.

The results showed that both genders showed an increase in adrenaline levels, yet the adrenaline levels of men were much higher compared to women. They therefore indicated that the physiological stress response of women was lower compared to men.

They offered the following reasons:

  • Men and women differ biologically in terms of hormones.
  • Men in physical terms are typically more aggressive than women. 
  • Men and women differ in traditional gender roles, such as women are typically more gentle and caring than men. However, this assumption has been changed over the years because women are now assuming traditionally male roles.

Coupled to this is that it appears that women could become increasingly affected as they work and care. It has been found by researchers that the social responsibilities mostly done by women such as child care, care of older relatives, and housework, raise the level and possibilities of distress. 

Men more often report financial stress than women do, which makes sense since men are traditionally expected to be breadwinners.

Certain anxieties affected men or women more. Men reacted more strongly to a quarrel with a child, financial problems, or work overload, whereas women were more distressed by arguments with a spouse, transportation difficulties, or family demands.

Culture and Stress

Stress is general regardless of ethnicity or culture, but the cause of stress does vary among cultural groups. 

Across the board there is the usual increased stress about money and work, but it all depends on the cultural norms. Some ethnic groups have difficulty asking for help regarding coping skills. What is apparent is that no matter what your culture is, it is important to maintain a sense of identity and social support when feeling overwhelmed and stressed. This includes embracing your particular culture but making sure that you develop a personal plan for dealing with stress.

Sexual Orientation and stress

Despite the fact that South Africa has one of the few Bills of Rights that cater for everyone’s rights, there is a great deal of stress for African Lesbians who are out and living in the Townships. There are high incidences of corrective rape and abuse suffered by women. Gay men also are not well tolerated – this is coupled to culture where many Black South Africans cite that it is “against their culture” to accept other orientations. It therefore indicates that there is a higher level of stress socially. This stress is related to actual physical danger for other sexual orientations other than heterosexuality. 


Personality Traits are individual characteristics that can be indicators of how people handle stress.  Research has shown that certain personality traits can make certain people more vulnerable to stress.  People with such traits are known as Type A personalities.  Type A’s tend to be more competitive, intolerant, have time urgency when compared to the more relaxed Type B personalities. What must be said is that we are a mixture of type A and B but if you are leaning more to type A this can make you more vulnerable to stress.

Type A Personality TraitsType B Personality Traits
Must get things finishedDo not mind leaving things unfinished for a while 
Never late for appointmentsCalm and unhurried about appointments
Excessively competitiveNot excessively competitive
Can’t listen to conversations, interrupt, finish other’s sentencesCan listen and let the other person finish speaking
Always in a hurryNever in a hurry even when busy
Do not like to waitCan wait calmly
Very busy at full speedEasy going
Trying to do more than one thing at a timeCan take one thing at a time
Want everything to be perfectDo not mind things not quite perfect
Pressured speechSlow and deliberate speech
Do everything fastDo things slowly
Hold feelings inCan express feelings
Not satisfied with work/lifeQuite satisfied with work/life
Few social activities/interestsMany social activities/interests
If in employment, will often take work homeIf in employment, will limit working to work hours