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Killer Stress: A National Geographic Special (2008)

National Geographic investigates the root causes and eventual effects of stress.


John Heminway


John Heminway


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Credited cast:
Elizabeth Blackburn Elizabeth Blackburn ... Herself - Doctor, Molecular Biologist
Elissa Epel Elissa Epel ... Herself - Professor, University of California, San Francisco
Marcus Lovett Marcus Lovett ... Narrator
Michael Marmot Michael Marmot ... Himself - University College Medical School, London
Bruce McEwen Bruce McEwen ... Himself - Neuroendocrinologist
Jeff Ritterman Jeff Ritterman ... Himself - Cardiologist
Tessa Roseboom Tessa Roseboom ... Herself - Doctor, University of Amsterdam
Benjamin Sapolsky Benjamin Sapolsky ... Himself
Lisa Sapolsky Lisa Sapolsky ... Herself - Neuropsychologist
Rachel Sapolsky Rachel Sapolsky ... Herself
Robert Sapolsky Robert Sapolsky ... Himself - Neurobiologist, Stanford
Carol Shively Carol Shively ... Herself - Doctor, Wake Forest University


National Geographic investigates the root causes and eventual effects of stress.

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Official Sites:

Official site | PBS





Release Date:

24 September 2008 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Le stress, portrait d'un tueur See more »

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User Reviews

Are humans like baboons
27 January 2011 | by celrSee all my reviews

This video explores the effects of stress in humans by referring to studies of baboons and monkeys. It raises more questions than it answers. Are humans like baboons? Yes and no. Touted as a major discovery in the study of human stress, careful study of baboons in Africa yields the not surprising conclusion that baboons suffer from stress just as do humans and that stress can severely impact their health. Evidently stressed-out primates live shorter, more disease-ridden lives. Stress makes them fatter too.

What causes stress in monkeys and baboons? According to this video it's low status in the communal group. The alpha males have the lowest levels of stress and the low status individuals have the highest. This is the result of the more dominant individuals picking on those below them in rank. Low status baboons are constantly bullied and harassed by baboons higher in rank. This is compared to the British civil service where managers continually browbeat those below them. Those on the receiving end of the abuse have significantly more stress than those above. This, however, is an isolated example.

While the study of primates is useful and important, this program fails to explain why high or low status in the communal group correlates with stress levels in primates, but not in humans.

Most humans are not in the British civil service, and though low status may cause stress, especially in social services (which are famous for producing frustrated and resentful workers), there are so many other factors involved in human stress it is impossible to categorize them. Some people are just operate on high stress, and often seek it out, no matter what their rank in society. Also, it's the high-stress humans, the driven alpha males and females, who are more likely to achieve high status and they don't give up their stress once they attain it. Low paying jobs are often, though certainly not always, far less stressful than high paying ones. Many other stress factors have nothing to do with social status such as the death of a loved one, major illness, or loss of employment.

The video shows some scenes of black underclass neighborhoods of Richmond, CA in order to show that lower status humans endure significant stress. It's true there's an awful lot of stress in underclass communities, but in the case of those urban ghettos, unlike with the baboons, the stress isn't coming from higher status individuals such as doctors and engineers, but from their peers: the pimps, the drug dealers and other petty criminals that infest the streets and cause so much misery to the residents.

Alas, the world doesn't permit us to live in stress-free circumstances. Some stress is unavoidable, and especially for those that want money and high status. As to how the individual can act to limit the amount of stress in his or her life the video has nothing to offer. In case you thought this was a video about how to deal with stress there is very little here of use.

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