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Stress and chronic disease

Emerging international literature suggests that psychosocial stress is an important contributor to chronic diseases and there is a large volume of research investigating this topic. Minority groups are confronted by particular stressors as a result of their disadvantaged circumstances within societies. There is a dearth of research on the social and cultural context of stress for Indigenous peoples and hence this review sought to address two broad research questions:

This review aimed to describe international and national literature relevant to psychosocial stress and chronic disease for Indigenous peoples; identify programs, projects and research that have been proposed and/or trialled to prevent or treat psychosocial stress and management of stress in relevant populations; and disseminate the results of the review to relevant services, policymakers and other organisations.

This review demonstrated that there are clear links between stress and a range of chronic diseases for Indigenous peoples in a number of first world nations (including Australia), as well as for African-Americans. The interventions identified in this review appear to warrant further investigation, and this review has also highlighted the need to consider the theoretical issues in stress conceptualisation and measurement in both analytical and intervention studies. There is also a need for further research in this area, including both small-scale research and more ambitious longitudinal studies.

A total of 50 studies examining the relationship between stress and chronic conditions were included in the review. Of these, 13 were conducted with Indigenous populations (six in Australia) and the remaining 34 with African Americans. Fifteen intervention studies were included in the review. The review was conducted primarily by searching available electronic databases both in Australia and overseas using PubMed, Ovid and Silverplatter as well as the World Wide Web, Indigenous HealthInfonet, the AIATSIS Library and the NHMRC’s list of projects.

This review identified a number of promising interventions that may be appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, particularly:

The review also found that further research in this field is warranted, specifically:

The review indicated that:

Related resources:

Project leader

Yin Paradies & Joan Cunningham



Administering institution:

Menzies School of Health Research