Ypsilanti residents focus of ISR study on stress and health

By Diane Swanbrow
News and Information Services

U-M researchers from the Institute for Social Research (ISR) will examine how everyday stress affects health and well-being in a new study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

For the study, researchers will be asking 100 residents of Ypsilanti about the stresses they face and how they cope. Participants will receive a total of $150 for talking with interviewers and having their blood pressure, pulse and weight measured. The project is part of a larger research program on mental health.

"We're not only interested in major life stresses," says David R. Williams, professor of sociology and senior research scientist at ISR. "We're also interested in learning more about the effects of relatively minor stresses, like having car trouble, not having enough time to spend with family and friends, and having someone 'cut' in front of you in line. Do these types of everyday stresses lead to poorer health and, if so, how does this happen?"

The research team also will study participants' life goals, how persistent they are in reaching those goals, and how their success or failure influences their health. "In an age when so many of us feel we don't have enough time to do everything we want to do, we want to understand how people choose where to focus their limited time and energy, and what effects these choices have on their health," says Randolph Nesse, professor of psychiatry and associate research scientist at ISR.

Unlike many previous studies of stress, life goals and health, the new study-known as the Ypsilanti Everyday Stress and Health Study (YES Health)-will focus on the experiences and perspectives of people with varied backgrounds and life histories, rather than college students. Recruiters will be contacting eligible households in Ypsilanti neighborhoods in the coming months.

Oakwood Hospital, Beyer Center, is providing the office space for YES Health interviews. "We're happy to be able to provide a location where community members can talk about the joys and the pressures in their lives, in privacy and without interruptions," says Barbara Socie, director of patient care services.

In addition to Williams and Nesse, ISR associate research scientist Daphna Oyserman is affiliated with the project. The principal investigator on the larger mental health research project is James S. Jackson, a senior research scientist at ISR and the Daniel Katz Distinguished University Professor of Psychology.

Established at the U-M in 1946 to advance the understanding of human behavior, ISR is now the largest university-based social research institution in the country.