Daily stress and our future physical health

How individuals react to the stress factors they encounter on a daily basis could predict their future health. This is according to a study of people participating in the Midus (Midlife in the United States) survey by researchers at Penn State University, which found that people who allow themselves to get upset about daily stressors could face problems later in life.

The research found that those who became easily wound up by everyday stress factors and continue to dwell on them after they have passed are more likely to suffer from chronic health problems ten years later, with these complaints including cardiovascular issues and arthritis.

Researchers looked at the relationships among stressful events in daily life, people's reactions to these and their health and wellbeing ten years later in their study of 2,000 individuals.

Professor of Human Development and Family Studies David Almeida said: "If you have a lot of work to do today and you are really grumpy because of it, then you are more likely to suffer negative health consequences."

Chartered Psychologist Dr Derek Lee comments:

"The findings of this study provide a lovely illustration of the contant interplay between ourselves and the daily challenges life presents us with. These challenges become stresses when we judge them to be making demands (emotional, physical or intellectual) on us that exceed our capacity to meet them – i.e. we feel unable to cope. A situation experienced as stressful on one occasion may be taken in our stride on another occasion. 

There are two sides to the stress equation – external demands and internal resources. However, the process is mediated by the way we perceive and think about these two aspects. Some people are prone to experiencing more situations as stressful because of differences in the way they make these judgements about the demands and their capacity to cope. The study seems to show that this tendency is predictive of future physical and mental health problems. This fits with our understanding of depression and anxiety disorders, and of the psychological therapies used to treat them, most notably cognitive behaviour therapy and mindfulness.”