Stress can impair decision-making, scientists say

Stress affects the way we make decisionsThese days, stress seems to be a near-unavoidable part of daily life, with troubling headlines about the stock market, job outlook and climate change dominating the news.

Now, scientists have discovered more about how stress affects people’s ability to make important decisions.

Researchers at the University of Washington conducted a rat test which suggested that even one stressful incident could disturb decision-making for several days.

The animals were first trained to successfully run a maze. Then, one group was given a series of tail shocks – and some among this bunch were also given a drug that would remove their response to stress.

After this experience, the rats which had undergone stress were less able to navigate the maze successfully, compared with the group which had received the drug – and the group that had not had tail shocks.

“The stressed animals took longer to learn and weren’t adjusting their behavior in the maze,” researcher Lauren Jones explained.

According to a 2004 study published in Molecular Psychiatry, high levels of estrogen may make women more vulnerable to depression caused by stress.