Crowding and Health
Assuming that crowding induces psychological stress, one would expect manifestations of psychological stress to be evident in crowded prison environments. A variety of physiological changes are often associated with psychological stress, including changes that would be expected to express themselves in alterations in physical health. Numerous studies have demonstrated alterations in immune and cardiovascular functions in response to psychological stress (Elliott & Eisdorfer, 1982; Evans & Cohen, 1987). If crowding induces psychological stress, we reasoned that we should see expressions of this in health measures of inmates related to the degree of exposure to crowding. Consequently, we examined indices of inmate health that were obtainable in a prison setting. Many of our findings focused on illness complaints. Interpretation of illness complaints is not simple. For example, they may simply reflect attempts to gain attention, increased irritability, or sensitivity to somatic symptoms. However, the analyses to be presented suggest that illness complaints of prison inmates may be indicative of genuine physical pathology. This would be expected if indeed psychological stress is induced by crowding, since in other contexts, stress has been shown to affect physiological functions related to health and illness.
KeywordsPsychological Stress Archival Data Maladaptive Behavior Prison Population Housing Type
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