Summary: The number of daily stressors and people’s reactivity to daily stressors decreases with age, according to a new study.
Source: Penn State
Stories of how daily stress can negatively impact people’s lives, from physical health to mental and emotional well-being, are frequently in the media. But there is good news about experiencing daily stress as people age.
The results of a recent study led by David Almeida, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State, showed that the number of daily stressors and people’s responsiveness to daily stressors decrease with age. .
The results were published in the journal developmental psychology.
“There’s something about getting older that leads to fewer stressors,” Almeida said. “It could be the type of social roles we fill as we age. As young people, we may be juggling more, including jobs, families, and homes, all of which create moments of daily stress. But as we age, our social roles and motivations change. Seniors talk about wanting to maximize and enjoy the time they have. »
The research team used data from the National Everyday Experiences Study (NSDE), a nationwide study led by Almeida at Penn State that collected comprehensive daily living data from more than 40,000 days in life. of more than 3,000 adults over a 20-year period. period, from 1995.
Respondents were between the ages of 25 and 74 at the start of the study and were invited to participate in the NSDE of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) project conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute on Aging.
Respondents participated in telephone interviews that assessed daily stress levels for eight consecutive days. These daily assessments were repeated at approximately nine-year intervals, providing a 20-year longitudinal daily log.
The researchers noted a decrease in the effects of daily stress both in the number of daily stressors people reported, as well as in their emotional reactivity to them. For example, 25-year-olds reported stressors on nearly 50% of days, while 70-year-olds reported stressors on only 30% of days.
In addition to the decrease in the number of daily stressors reported, Almeida and the research team also found that as people age, they are less emotionally reactive to daily stressors when they occur.
“A 25-year-old is much grumpier on the days when he’s experiencing a stressor, but as we get older we really figure out how to reduce those exposures,” said Almeida, who noted that daily stress steadily decreases until in his mid fifties. when people are least affected by stress exposures.
Although these results show a decrease in reports and reactivity to daily stressors until the mid-1950s, Almeida notes that early indicators show that advancing age, in the late 1960s and early 1900s 70, may bring more challenges and a slight increase in cases. daily stress.
With this discovery, Almeida looks forward to the next round of data collection for MIDUS, which will be the first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. This new round of data collection will allow Almeida and his team to assess the impact of the pandemic on daily stress reactivity.
The next round of data collection will also allow the team to further study how people grow and change as adults.
“Aging 35 to 65 is very different from aging 65 to 95,” Almeida said. “We’ve already started to see this in the data, but this next round of data collection and analysis will give us a better understanding of what it looks like.”
“At the end of the next post-pandemic data collection in a few years, I will be in my early 60s, and when I started this project I was in my late 20s,” he said. for follow-up. “My own development happened during this midlife study, and it has been instructive to see these discoveries play out in my own life.”
According to Almeida, we all age and age in different ways. How we age depends not only on the challenges we face, but also how we deal with those challenges.
“Much of my previous work has looked at these small everyday stressors – being late for a meeting, arguing with a partner, caring for a sick child – and finding that our emotional responses to these events are predictive of later health and well-being, including chronic illness, mental health and even mortality.With this new research, it is encouraging to see that as we age, we begin to better manage these stressors On average, the experience of everyday stress will not get worse, but will actually get better.
Funding: This research was supported by Penn State’s Survey Research Center and the Center for Healthy Aging at the College of Health and Human Development.
Other researchers on the team include Jonathan Rush of the University of Victoria; Jacqueline Mogle of the Penn State Center for Prevention Research; Jennifer Piazza of California State University, Fullerton; Eric Cerino of Northern Arizona University; and Susan Charles of the University of California, Irvine.
About this stress and aging research news
Author: Francois Tutella
Source: Penn State
Contact: Francisco Tutella–Penn State
Image: Image is in public domain
Original research: Access closed.
“Longitudinal Change in Daily Stress Over 20 Years in Adulthood: Findings from the National Daily Experiences Study” by David Almeida et al. developmental psychology
Longitudinal Change in Daily Stress Over 20 Years in Adulthood: Results from the National Daily Experiences Study
This study examined the patterns of exposure and affective reactivity to daily age-related stressors over a 20-year period in adults aged 22 to 77 at their baseline interview.
Longitudinal data from the National Study of Everyday Experiences (NSDE) consisted of three bursts of eight consecutive nightly interviews on stress and affect.
The analyzes used all available data from a US national sample of respondents who participated in one of three NSDE bursts (NOT = 2845; number of daily assessments = 33,688).
The results revealed increasing age-related benefits. Younger adults (<30 years) reported the highest levels of stressor exposure and reactivity, but their stress profile improved with age.
Over time, adults experienced an average 11% reduction in the frequency of stressful days, and young adults experienced an even more pronounced decline (a 47% reduction) in their stress factor reactivity levels. stress.
For middle-aged and older adults, stressor frequency continued to decline over time, but in adults aged 54 or older at baseline, stress reactivity remained stable over time .
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