Segments in this Video

Explanation of Stress (01:57)


Stress, once necessary for survival, has become the scourge of human life. Scientific discoveries prove that stress is not abstract, it's measurable and dangerous. Chronic stress can kill brain cells , fatten bellies, and even unravel chromosomes.

Baboon Social Stress Model (03:28)

A Stanford neurobiologist has been advancing the understanding of stress and its impact on the body. He has also studied how social standing can affect a person's susceptibility to stress. His research takes place on the plains of Africa.

Stress Response Hormones (01:52)

Adrenaline and glucocorticoids are pumped through the body by overworked lungs and heart when an animal is fighting for survival. Unlike other mammals humans don't seem to have an off switch and have the stress response for psychological states.

Psychological Stress Response (02:22)

By purposefully seeking controlled stress and by not turning off the stress response when reacting to everyday events, humans wallow in a corrosive bath of hormones. A neurobiologist observes baboons who have no control over their stress.

Social Standing and Stress Hormones (02:38)

While studying baboons, a neurobiologist identifies the link between stress and hierarchy. Baboon brains have evolved to navigate social complexities--survival requires a sort of political savvy. Stress is linked to the deteriorating health of a wild primate.

Whitehall Study: Link Between Stress and Rank (04:12)

A neurobiologist measures stress in baboons; meanwhile, a professor leads a study that tracks the health of more than 28,000 people who are part of a precise hierarchy. Subordinates are more likely to suffer from chronic stress and health problems.

Primate Stress Hormone Observation (02:48)

A neurobiologist and his neuropsychologist wife travel to the African plains where they conduct baboon research on stress. They measure how animals at every level of the hierarchy react to and recover form stress.

Are Ulcers Caused by Stress? (02:47)

After it is determined that ulcers are not caused by stress but by bacteria, further research shows that stress shuts down all nonessential systems in the body including the immune system, allowing a common and often harmless bacteria to multiply.

Stress is Arterial Plaque (02:22)

Stress can cause ulcers by disrupting the body's ability to heal itself. Arteries of Makak monkeys that live in a hierarchical system are the perfect subject to study stress hormones that can trigger an intense negative cardiovascular response.

Stress's Deadly Curse (02:35)

Social and psychological stress can clog arteries, restrict blood flow and jeopardize heart health, but that is just the beginning. Research also shows chronic stress can kill brain cells, specifically the part responsible for memory.

Social Status and Brain Chemicals (01:36)

In addition to undermining health, stress can make people miserable. PET scans reveal a link between stress, pleasure and social standing in the brains of primates. Subordinates have much lower levels of dopamine than dominants.

Life Expectancy and Social Status (01:28)

Richmond, California is a place where society's extremes can be easily spotted. A doctor explains how high production of stress hormones takes a toll on those lower on the socioeconomic ladder.

Dangerous Abdominal Fat and Stress (03:17)

The Whitehall Study found a link between stress, position in the social hierarchy and how people put on weight. Stress can actually alter the way fat is distributed on the body and could be a critical factor in the global obesity epidemic.

Dutch Hunger Winter Phenomenon (04:00)

In 1944--during a brutal winter--the occupying army conspires to starve Holland. Researchers think stress hormones in mothers' blood triggered a change in the nervous system of fetuses, resulting in long term effects for those born during this time.

Genetic Effect of Stress (03:51)

A neurobiologist tracks the trail of stress deep into the body through baboon research. As people age, genetic structures called telomeres shorten, a process that can be accelerated by chronic stress.

Stress Reduction for Health (02:14)

Mothers of children with special needs are a highly stressed group. These women have shortened telomeres and shorter life spans. Compassion and caring for others may reduce stress, produce telomerase, and promote regeneration of cells.

Primate Stress Reduction Phenomenon (04:16)

Connecting with and helping others may help people live longer healthier lives. A neurobiologist witnesses the transformation of a baboon troop when a majority of the aggressive and socially disconnected males dies.

Stress in Modern Society (02:14)

A neurobiologist who has spent the last thirty years studying stress in baboons admits he is not good at dealing with his own stress. He compares life on the plains of Africa with life in the US.

Stress Reduction for Life (02:13)

One antidote to stress may be finding a place where one is on control, but how can people deal with all the time spent at work? Studies show that the conditions in which people live and work are vital for their health.

What Can Baboons Teach People? (02:04)

Observation of baboons and British civil servants points to the need for a society that allows people to flourish. Primates show that social affiliation is very powerful, and that giving rather than receiving can create a world with less stress.

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Stress: Portrait of a Killer

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Over the last three decades, science has been advancing the understanding of stress—how it impacts the human body and how social standing can make a person more or less susceptible. Through studies of baboons on the plains of Africa and research in the neuroscience labs of Stanford University, scientists are discovering just how lethal stress can be. Understanding how stress works can help people figure out ways to combat it and how to live a life free of the tyranny of this contemporary plague. As Stress: Portrait of a Killer shows, stress is not just a state of mind; it’s something measurable and dangerous. A National Geographic Production. (56 minutes)

Length: 56 minutes

Item#: BVL42052

ISBN: 978-1-62102-048-6

Copyright date: ©2008

Closed Captioned

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