Despite its relevance, our understanding of stress remains very limited, and conceptualizations are heterogeneous. The slew of laboratory studies and animal models dominating current stress concepts have poor ecological and predictive validity. They do not teach us about person-specific patterns of stress responses in the ‘real world’. Static, one-time assessments of stressful events and experiences do not capture the actual daily-life context in which stress arises, let alone the full set of emotional, physiological, cognitive and behavioural stress responses. Consequently, there remains a huge gap in our understanding of what determines stress in our daily life, how we can quantify it, what the temporal dynamics of the various stress responses are, how they are moderated by person-specific characteristics, and how stress responses drive the onset and course of stress-related disease.
Stress-in-Action capitalizes on the fast advances in technology and big data analytics to move stress research from the lab to daily life. A theoretical framework of daily-life stress will be developed using the novel insights from ambulatory assessments in large, long-running Dutch cohorts and from experimental validation studies. This generates novel, mechanistic understanding of 1) how responses to daily-life stress arise from the temporal, dynamic interplay between context and person-specific factors, 2) how daily-life stress can be reliably measured in a specific individual in real-time, and 3) how and when potential beneficial stress-response mechanisms turn into detrimental effects on mental and cardiometabolic health. This will enable the development of novel monitoring and intervention strategies to track and reduce daily-life stress and its health impact.