Listening Topic: Health – radio book review

A. Listen to the book review. Choose the correct ending for the summary of the book.

In his book, Robert Sapolsky says ____.

      a   Human stress is more like zebra stress

      b   Human stress is more like baboon stress

B. Listen to the review again. As you listen, complete the statements. Listen again if necessary.

1   Robert Sapolsky came to conclusions about human stress after ______________________

2   Stress that zebras might feel is ______________________

3   Baboons have more free time because ______________________

4   Some typical causes of stress in humans mentioned are ______________________

5   Long-term stress in humans causes problem because ______________________

6   To deal with stress, Robert Sapolsky suggests ______________________





Answers may vary slightly.

 Robert Sapolsky came to conclusions about human stress after working with animals and studying primates in Africa for 20 years.

 Stress that zebras might feel is caused by their being hunted by other animals.

 Baboons have more free time because they only spend about four hours a day looking for food.

 Some typical causes of stress in humans mentioned are money and job worries.

 Long-term stress in humans causes problems because your body feels like it’s in an emergency for a long time.

 To deal with stress, Robert Sapolsky suggests choosing a strategy that works for you.


A = Kellie, B = Gordon

A:   Let’s turn now to our book reviewer, Gordon Park. Each week Gordon gives us suggestions for good reading about health and wellbeing. What are you going to tell us about this week, Gordon?

B:   Hi Kellie. I want to talk about a book called Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky. I’ll explain the title in a minute, but the book is about stress, and, well, I think stress is a topic that most of us are concerned about.

A:   Oh yes definitely. So, what does the author say about it?

B:   Well, basically that there are two different kinds of stress. One kind is worse for you than the other. And guess which kind of stress most people experience?

A:   The bad kind!

B:   Of course. Now, the author came to his conclusions about stress as the result of working with animals. Sapolsky is a professor of biology and neurology who has spent about 20 years studying primates in Africa – specifically baboons.

A:   Baboons are a kind of monkey, right?

B:   Yes, that’s right. So, Sapolsky studied stress in animals and then he made some parallels to stress in humans, and that’s what this book is about.

A:   Interesting! First, tell us about stress in animals.

B:   OK, remember the title of the book is Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Now it’s interesting because zebras might feel stress because they are being hunted by another animal.

A:   Obviously, that’s stressful.

B:   Yes, but the interesting thing is that this kind of stress is very immediate. It’s about living or dying withing the next few minutes; it’s not about what’s going to happen in the next few weeks, months, or years. But, Sapolsky compares this type of stress that a zebra might experience to the baboon’s situation, and it’s different. Baboons only need to spend about four hours a day searching for food, so Sapolsky argues that this gives baboons a lot of free time to worry and get stressed about things beyond immediate needs and survival. So, you can see that this is a different kind of stress.

A:   Yes. So, our stress is more like the baboons’.

B:   Exactly. A lot of our stress doesn’t come from things that are essential for our immediate survival. Usually it’s more long-term issues like money and job worries. Our stress is much less often about whether we’re going to live or die in the next minute.

A:   OK, but why is this more of a problem than a zebra’s stress about the text two minutes?

B:   Well, Sapolsky points out that it is important for your body to react to an immediate crisis. You know, if you had to run from danger, adrenaline and stress hormones could save your life. The problem comes if that reaction never gets turned off. So if you’re worrying about long-term problems, that means your body could feel like it’s in an emergency state for a long period of time. Over time, this kind of chronic stress weakens the immune system, increases the risk of heart disease, and makes depression more likely.

A:   I see. So, can we do anything about this?

B:   The author seems to think so. Some of the strategies are ones that you may have heard about before. For example, exercise and having a good social support system with friends and family. It’s interesting though, he points out that you need to choose a strategy that works for you. For example, if you really dislike exercise, then it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to try that to relieve stress because doing something you don’t enjoy could cause more stress.

A:   I like this idea. It sounds like you would recommend this book.

B:   Yes, definitely. It gives a lot of interesting and useful information about stress, but the best part is that the information is presented in a clear, entertaining and often humorous way. You can learn a lot from it, but it’s not boring.

A:   OK, another good book to add to our reading list. Thanks, Gordon.

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