The harmful impacts of stress have historically been ignored. We’ve known for some time that it’s the drip-drip effect of daily hassles that really wear us down, but the effect of long-term patterns of different types of stress is unclear. Research from Oregon State University now suggests older men under stress are likely to die earlier.
Carolyn Aldwin, Director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, examined the effects of daily hassles and significant life event hassles. Daily hassles refer to those nagging issues that seem to press our buttons. These are things like misplacing items, money, getting stuck in traffic, time pressures, being interrupted, social obligations, arguments and so on. Significant life event hassles refer to events that occur less frequently but have a big impact - such as the death of a spouse, divorce, retirement or personal injury, to name just four.
The study used data from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study, involving 1,293 men between 1989 and 2005, then a follow-up in 2010. By the end of the study period, around 43 percent of the men had died. Within the sample, closer to half the men reporting moderate to high numbers of stressful events had died, compared with a third who reported few stressful life events. Men with the fewest daily hassles had the lowest mortality rate, at 28.7 percent, while 64.3 percent of the men reporting high daily hassles had died.
We can’t avoid stress in our lives and, in fact, a little stress is actually necessary for us to work at our optimum level. The really significant issue is the way we respond to stress. If you feel your blood boil because you have to wait in a line, for example, it’s a sign you aren’t coping well. The way older men perceive hassles tends to worsen from about the age of 65-70.
Researchers speculate that health issues, cognitive decline, and the death of a spouse or friends may be partly responsible. Aldwin says that aging is neither exclusively rosy nor depressing, but how you react to hassles and uplifts as a 55- to 60-year-old may change as you enter the so-called “fourth age,” from age 75 to 100.
Oregon State University, (2014, September 10). Even small stressors may be harmful to men's health, new research shows. Science Daily
Published On: September 14, 2014