Stress-test revolution

2005

A revolution in the way that employers deal with stress is on the way after scientists announced the development of the first accurate measure of the impact of stress on the human body and the ability to cope with adversity.

According to a report in the Independent, the monitoring system, Stresserve, works by measuring the variability of an individual's heart rate. A score of eight to 10 shows a patient is very resilient to stress or at least healthy. A reading of one to five shows that their reserves for coping with stress are critically impaired.

Designed by cardiology experts, it will be launched in pharmacies and clinics this summer.

Professor Andrew Coats, the dean of Sydney University's medical school and an expert in heart medicine, said that developments in physiology and biomathematics have led to increased insights into measuring the effects of stress on the body. "This can allow us to estimate not only the impact of stress but also how much reserve capacity is left to cope with further stress," said Mr Coats, who helped to design Stresserve.

The three-minute test involves a clinician placing straps on the patient's wrist pulse points. The straps are then connected to a machine which gives a readout on how exposure to stress has affected the person on a long-term basis and if they are mentally or physically unwell. In trials, a male patient who scored one was later found to have type one diabetes which had been undiagnosed.

Dr Gillian Wannan-Smith, a specialist in neurology and immunology who is trialling the test, said: "Everyone has an ability to cope with stress but some people will be more prone to anxiety and others will be very resilient.

Managing directors generally have the personality type to cope with the stresses they face, though they have to be careful not to run down their reserves because of the pressures they are under."

The Independent | Stressed? Three-minute test shows if you can cope