Risk Factors for the Onset of Stress-Related Diseases

In today’s rapidly advancing and highly digitized society, driven by Social Media (SNS) and AI, humanity is facing stress situations that are more complex and surpass the assumptions of “humans” as biological beings than ever before.

In addition, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, humanity has been under significant threat, with many people still suffering from its aftermath. Although there has been some respite, we have been subjected to significant upheavals both mentally and physically, and it can be said that these stressful conditions persist.

Amidst such circumstances, the proportion of stress-related disorders such as functional somatic syndromes and psychosomatic illnesses, as well as chronic diseases like lifestyle-related diseases, is increasing. In these conditions, the relationship between so-called “stress” or, in more rigid terms, “psychosocial factors,” and the pathogenesis of these diseases is not a one-to-one correspondence but a non-linear and complex system. Hence, objective evaluation becomes challenging.

This study utilizes data from stress assessments conducted in outpatient psychosomatic clinics to

  • Determine which stress factors are involved in the onset and pathogenesis of stress-related disorders.
  • Identify factors contributing to the deterioration of quality of life (QOL) and social functions such as work and household tasks.
  • Investigate whether combinations or patterns of multiple factors rather than a single factor are involved and, if so, determine which combinations or patterns affect these conditions.
  • Explore factors contributing to the exacerbation of not only stress-related disorders such as psychosomatic illnesses but also common chronic physical diseases like lifestyle-related diseases.

from the perspective of psychosomatic medicine.

Research Objectives

The objectives of this research are to elucidate the pathophysiology of stress responses in stress-related disorders, clarify the degree of involvement and relationships of risk factors in onset, establish therapeutic strategies for stress-related disorders, and aim to prevent onset through stress management and lifestyle adjustments.

Through these objectives, we seek ways to navigate the aforementioned stress society with both mental and physical health.

Research Methods: Data Science Approaches

For the analysis of such multivariate, multi-level, and relatively large datasets, approaches based on data science, including recent advancements in machine learning, deep learning, and AI, are crucial.

Our department has collaborated with medical institutions and related departments to conduct stress assessments in outpatient psychosomatic clinics for patients with stress-related disorders such as psychosomatic illnesses and functional somatic syndromes, as well as healthy individuals serving as controls.

These stress assessments combine stress response profiles of physiological indicators spanning multiple systems with symptoms, disease severity, social functioning such as work, psychological assessments, and QOL, termed Psychophysiological Stress Profile (PSP) (Kanbara et al., Psychosomatic Medicine, 2005; Kanbara et al., Psychosomatic Medicine, 2007). Data collection is ongoing alongside outpatient care.

Using this database, which includes multivariate data on physiological stress responses, psychological assessments, and clinical information, we are implementing or considering the following methods:

  • Identifying stress response patterns specific to stress-related disorders and combinations of psychological and epidemiological factors using large-scale data analysis methods, including machine learning.
  • Creating a model of risk factors for the onset of stress-related disorders based on these stress-related factor patterns.
  • Applying the model to new subjects to validate its validity.
  • Considering clinical applications such as disease risk prediction based on the model.
  • Establishing preventative strategies for stress-related disorders based on the model.

Research Prospects: Turning Stress into Life’s Spice

Despite living in the complex stress society mentioned earlier, humans possess the inherent ability to adapt to stress situations and turn stress into a spice of life. Just like in cooking, spices can be overwhelming if used in excess but are indispensable in moderation. This adaptive function is also referred to as allostasis.

We aim to elucidate how to turn stress into life’s spice using the power of data science and explore the wisdom to navigate through today’s post-COVID and anxious era from a psychosomatic perspective.

(LABs Psychosomatic Medicine,, May, 2023)

Related Projects

An investigation into pattern analysis of physiological stress responses and the construction of clinical stress response models using machine learning
[2020-2024 Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C)]

An examination of pathophysiology using psychophysiological and psychological assessments in functional somatic syndromes
[2010-2012 Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C)]