Universiteit Leiden

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Health psychologist Jos Brosschot professor by special appointment

Jos F. Brosschot has been appointed as a professor by special appointment on the chair ‘psychophysiological mechanisms of stress in daily life’. This chair has been created by the Foundation for Research into Psychosocial Stress.

The foundation (in Dutch:  'Stichting Onderzoek naar Psychosociale Stress' (SOPS)) aims at making a contribution to knowledge, treatment and preventions of stress. The main goal of the chair is to study the psychological and physiological factors that cause stress in daily life, with a focus on both conscious and unconscious processes.

Prof.dr. Jos Brosschot
Prof. Jos Brosschot PhD

Prolonged daily stress

Health psychologist Brosschot has been involved in the study of psychological stress on somatic reactions and health for many years. His current research at the Health, Medical and Neuropsychology unit focuses on the effects of prolonged stress in daily life. Short-lasting bodily stress responses do not make people ill, they are natural reactions to dangers and challenges. However, prolonged responses, that is, repeated or - even worse - chronic increases of heart activity, blood pressure or the levels of stress hormones can lead to a heightened risk for somatic disease.

Stress system’s responses

According to Brosschot and his colleagues, these prolonged responses do not automatically result from stressful events, but are due to worrying and ruminating about these events. In particular worrying about future events – that often not even happen at all – might lead to long-term activation of the body’s stress system. Examples are high blood pressure and heart activity and higher cortisol levels.  

Cardiovascular and hormonal reactions

Brosschot and his American colleagues coined the term perseverative cognition for this prolonged worrying and ruminating about stressful events or threats. The renowned journal Psychological Bulletin recently reviewed that this perseverative cognition is associated with cardiovascular and hormonal reactions.

Newest step in stress research with TOP-grant ZonMw

The newest step in Brosschot’s research is the idea that stress-related cognition is partly unconscious, while still having bodily effects that can make us sick in the long term. His research group is currently studying this idea, financed by a prestigious TOP grant of ZonMw.

CV Jos Brosschot

Brosschot’s focus has always been directed at the mechanisms that are responsible for the effects of the mind on the body. As a PhD student he was, together with psychologists and immunologists from Utrecht University, one of the first to demonstrate that stress influences the human immune system. After his promotion, he worked at the University of Amsterdam.

Jos Brosschot has been working at Leiden University for nearly two decades. He has carried out several laboratory and field studies, specifically on the influence of worry on heart activity and somatic complaints. His research has repeatedly been awarded grants, including a KNAW fellowship and several NWO grants.

Stress research in Leiden

The special professorship strengthens the position of Leiden University in the field of stress research. The chair emphasises the quality of the existing stress research and will, according to expectations, lead to more interest in and extra funding for research into daily stress. Brosschot has always concentrated on the causes of this daily stress, in contrast to traumatic stress and psychopathology, the domain of clinical psychology.

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