Physicians rarely counsel patients on stress reduction

Although 60 percent to 80 percent of doctor's visits involve stress-related health problems, primary care physicians counsel patients on how to reduce their stress only 3 percent of the time, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

This low rate of counseling represents missed opportunities, according to the researchers, who noted that physicians in the study offered more lifestyle advice in other areas, including nutrition counseling (17 percent of visits), physical activity counseling (12 percent) and weight counseling (6 percent).

As with all of these relatively infrequent interventions, physicians' main barrier to discussing stress-reduction is time, MyHealthNewsDaily reported, adding that such advice indeed took longer. However, the increased adoption of team-based primary care could help alleviate this time crunch, according to study coauthor Aditi Nerurkar, a primary care physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Furthermore, other research has shown that although stress doesn't directly cause disease, it can exacerbate existing or underlying conditions. In fact, another study published in the Archives this week concluded that unemployment significantly increased a person's risk for suffering a heart attack or other cardiovascular event.

But it's not just major sources of chronic stress, such as job loss or a sick family member, that affect health, according to a new study from Penn State University, published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Rather, people who have high reactivity to minor hassles of their daily lives, such as unpaid bills and looming deadlines, are more prone to infection and higher occurrences of fatigue, sore throat, headache and backache, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Overall, the study found that a person's constant "fight-or-flight" response to daily stress was "associated with an increased risk" that a participant would report a chronic physical health condition 10 years later.

To learn more:
- read the article from MyHealthNewsDaily
- see the abstract from the Archives of Internal Medicine
- check out the story from the Pittsburg Post-Gazette
- see the abstract from the Annals of Behavioral Medicine