Our scientific challenge
Stress is the ‘buzz’ word of modern life, and stress-related health conditions are a major public health burden and a threat to economic competitiveness. Nevertheless, the shape and impact of stress in ecologically meaningful settings remain uncharted as the emotional, physiological, cognitive and behavioural stress responses in daily life have not been measured at sufficiently long time scales to truly understand their temporal dynamics and longer-term health impact. By focusing on repeated ambulatory measurements of contextual factors and the comprehensive, multicomponent (emotional, cognitive, physiological and behavioural) stress response in daily-life, Stress-in-Action creates a major paradigm shift from common group comparisons in artificial lab settings towards examining person-specific stress-profiles across real life settings.
The Netherlands possesses internationally renowned scientific leaders in the field of ambulatory assessment of stress response and stress-related diseases, paired to unique large-scale research infrastructures and a solid tradition of methodological and statistical innovation. The Stress-in-Action (SiA) consortium combines these unique strengths into a highly multidisciplinary collaboration that will put Dutch daily-life stress research at the forefront of science. Core Applicants (4 women, 2 men, mean age 48 years) and consortium members (56% female, 59%<45 years) come from four different universities and bring expertise from epidemiology, ethics, genetics, informatics and data science, internal medicine, law, (stress)physiology, psychology, psychiatry, public and occupational health, statistics and sociology. By providing an extensive training program and structured mentoring of over 50 new hires within a strong and focused consortium we ensure that the paradigm shift in stress research is transferred into the next generation.
Stress-in-Action will provide novel insights into the aetiology of daily-life stress, how it can be reliably measured, how it is impacted by context and individual variation, and how and when its potentially beneficial acute effects on human functioning turn into a detrimental impact on mental and cardiometabolic health. Stress-in-Action will also enable tailored, personalised feedback on daily-life stress profiles in citizen-owned stress reduction interventions.
We will develop innovative approaches to quantify daily-life stress context and responses. For this, we conduct data mining on existing ambulatory stress data within the consortium. In parallel we develop and test novel ambulatory methods for repeated measurements across extended time periods using smartphone-based ecological momentary assessments, GPS- and accelerometer/gyroscope tracking of behaviours, physiological monitoring through wearables and non-invasive biomaterial sampling. In all data collection, user-acceptance and privacy issues will be tackled in close collaboration with participants following the participatory and citizen science paradigms. Subsequently, we will enrich existing large-scale Dutch cohorts with an optimal selection of these novel ambulatory methods to quantify daily-life stress across prolonged recordings repeated across multiple years in well-characterized individuals. The dynamic relationship between contextual factors, the comprehensive emotional, physiological, cognitive and behavioural stress response, and mental and cardiometabolic health outcomes will be examined in this longitudinal framework. To enable accessing, integrating, and analysing these ‘big’ data into a personalised stress profile, new multidimensional and temporal data integration methods will be developed, drawn from fast developing approaches in (bio)informatics and statistics. Finally, we will employ our improved theoretical understanding of daily-life stress to create ambulatory monitoring and feedback tools that are tailored to the individual’s unique stress profile. We will experimentally intervene on daily-life stress by providing feedback from these ambulatory assessments and conduct long-term prospective health follow-up to examine how daily-life stress impacts on health outcomes.
Stress-in-Action will establish a sustainable consortium that provides the scientific framework for understanding daily-life stress and enabling the development of personalised monitoring and intervention strategies to make our citizens more stress-resilient and reduce stress-related health loss.
The Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) is a multi-disciplinary international group of top scientists with expertise in e.g. psychiatry, psychology, ambulatory monitoring, ethics and big data science.