8 Negative Effects of Stress on Health

The negative effects of stress on health are evident and confirmed by science. Discover the most important ones in this article!
8 Negative Effects of Stress on Health
Laura Ruiz Mitjana

Written and verified by la psicóloga Laura Ruiz Mitjana.

Last update: 13 May, 2023

The negative effects of stress on health are undeniable, and this has been demonstrated by science through a multitude of studies in this regard. Here, we’ve focused only on some of them so that you can take them into account if you’re having a difficult time.

Taking care of physical health is important, but so is taking care of your emotional health. In addition, based on the relationship between body and mind, we know that emotions influence our state of health and vice versa.

“Without mental health, there’s no health”

Negative effects of stress on health

Without further ado, we’ll tell you about 8 of the negative effects of stress on health because, as we mentioned, mental or emotional health and physical health are related. As you’ll see, stress affects a large number of body systems. Learn about some of these effects!

1. Obesity and overweight

A study from the University of Illinois (2008), published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, showed that there’s a relationship between stress, anxiety, and obesity. Therefore, one of the negative effects is that it increases the probability of developing obesity or being overweight.

In fact, this could in part be due to poor anxiety eating habits that arise from mistaking your body’s signals (i.e., mistaking anxiety for hunger ). Also because many people, as a compensatory mechanism, try to reduce anxiety through food or go to it to feel better.

In this regard, a study (2011) led by the researcher Corine Webb raises this relationship. The author suggests that these poeple have a limited ability to manage negative or anxious emotional states, which would lead them to eat compulsively.

A woman snacking on gummy candies while working at her desk.
Food can mean a compensatory mechanism against stress, which leads to being overweight.

2. Sleep disorders

Another negative effect of stress is sleep disorders, the most prevalent being insomnia. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), between 8% and 10% of the adult population suffer from chronic insomnia and up to 40% of the inhabitants of any Western country suffer from transient insomnia.

Surely you’ve noticed that when you’re stressed you sleep worse. This can be due to various causes. It may be an imbalance in the nervous system that makes it difficult to correctly secrete melatonin (the hormone that facilitates sleep). Or it could be due to the tendency to think about too many things at bedtime because we’re more worried.

Finally, and as a curious fact, the WHO recognizes a total of 88 types of sleep disorders. Many of them can be influenced by stress, although the causes are also organic.

3. Irregular menstruation

In women, stress can influence the occurrence of irregular menstrual periods. This is due to the hormonal alteration that it produces. Therefore, it could lead to very short or, conversely, very long periods. It can also cause your period to stop coming for a few months.

In relation to this, a 2007 study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, led by N. Vitoratos, establishes this relationship between stress and irregular cycles. Specifically, the study states that traumatic stress has been linked to changes in normal menstruation.

4. Skin problems

According to a 2017 study published in Acta Dermatovenerologica Croatica (ADS) and led by Anamaria Jovic, stress could cause skin problems, such as acne. This is due to the fact that the body secretes different hormones–cortisol and adrenal androgens–at levels that are higher than usual.

Under stress, we also secrete more neuropeptides (nerve proteins like endorphins and insulin) and inflammatory cytokines (which are small proteins that trigger inflammation). This cocktail of hormones and substances influences the behavior of the sebaceous glands, which can produce and worsen acne.

5. Hypertension

Another of the negative effects of stress is arterial hypertension, one of the most prevalent cardiovascular diseases worldwide. Hypertension involves an increase in blood pressure inside the arteries.

We know that when we’re under constant stress, the heartbeat tends to increase in frequency, which causes the blood pressure to increase its rate as well. It’s important to be aware of this symptom, as hypertension is the cause of other problems related to the heart, eyes, kidneys, and blood vessels.

Most people with hypertension don’t show any symptoms. Sometimes, it can cause headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, and palpitations, although not always. If left unchecked, it can lead to a heart attack, an enlarged heart, and, in the long term, heart failure.

6. Stomach ulcers

Anxiety increases the presence of stomach acids, which favors the formation of ulcers, as well as indigestion and inflammation processes. Therefore, this would be another one of the negative effects of stress.

In this regard, the digestive system is very connected to emotions. Said system could suffer the negative consequences of certain emotional alterations, such as those caused by stress.

7. Headaches

Suffering from different types of headaches (tension headaches or migraines) is another one of the possible negative effects of stress on health. The reality is that this symptom is frequent in numerous diseases.

High cortisol levels and muscle tension caused by stress could explain the triggering of a headache. Headaches are one of the most common disorders of the nervous system.

A man experiencing a stress headache.
Headaches are a sign of stress and alter daily life when they’re suffered frequently.

8. Hair loss

Stress could also increase the likelihood of hair loss, as it weakens hair follicles. In addition, anxiety can also lead a person to pull their hair as a self-regulatory or emotional management mechanism. This is what’s known as trichotillomania, classified as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder within the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

Avoid the negative effects of stress

As we’ve seen, stress has an impact on health in different areas. We must bear in mind, however, that going through a stressful period isn’t the same as living immersed in a state of chronic stress.

Chronic stress is much more detrimental to health than transitory stress. Therefore, taking care of ourselves should be one of our top priorities. In this regard, healthy lifestyle habits are important, in addition to tending to mental care.

“If you change your habits, you change your life”


  • Jovi0 et al. (2017). Impact of psychological stress on acne. Jović et al. Acta Dermatovenerol Croat, 25(2): 133-141.
  • Sierra, J. C., Ortega, V., & Zubeidat, I. (2003). Ansiedad, angustia y estrés: tres conceptos a diferenciar. Revista Mal Estar e Subjetividade, 3(1), 10-59.
  • Vitoratos, N., Papatheodorou, D. C., Kalantaridou, S. N., & Mastorakos, G. (2007). “Reproductive” Corticotropin‐Releasing Hormone. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1092(1), 310–318.
  • Osorio, Julieth Estefanía, and Lucila Cárdenas Niño. “Work stress: a review study.” Diversitas: Perspectivas en Psicología 13.1 (2017): 81-90.
  • Vinaccia, Stefano, et al. “Estrés psicosocial y úlcera péptica duodenal: una perspectiva bio-psico-social.” Revista latinoamericana de psicología 33.2 (2001): 117-130.

Este texto se ofrece únicamente con propósitos informativos y no reemplaza la consulta con un profesional. Ante dudas, consulta a tu especialista.