How daily stressors take a toll on long-term health

September 19, 2016 by Brandi Klingerman, University of Notre Dame

Everyone experiences stress, but how a person responds varies. For some, stressors are viewed as challenges to overcome, whereas others may see them as threats and give up or shut down when faced with a stressful situation. How people react – both psychologically and physically – can have implications for a person's health and well-being, including how well they age.

Associate Vice President for Research (AVPR) and Professor of Psychology Cindy Bergeman is currently conducting a 10-year study based on how different people respond to stress, why they react the way they do, and the different ways people cope. From interviews to medical exams, the research team is looking to better understand how stress can affect someone over both a short and a long period of time and what the best coping strategies are in order to remain resilient against stress.

When speaking about her research, Bergeman explained, "When a zebra on the savannah is being hunted by a lion, the zebra's rises, its body begins moving glucose to the muscles, and breathing increases, all in order to achieve peak performance. This primal survival response is caused by stress." She continued, "people have the same physical reaction to stress, but in today's world stressors don't require a fight or flee response. The body's reaction, however, is the same, even if stressors come from work pressures, complicated relationships, or financial problems."

When people are chronically stressed, these physical responses become detrimental to the human body. For example, continuous can lead to hypertension and a constant increase of glucose levels can cause diabetes.

Bergeman's study is taking a comprehensive approach that uses both daily and yearly assessments as well as quantitative and qualitative data. By collecting information over a longer period of time, her lab is working to understand the varying effects of as well as one-time, stressful events.

"What goes on in our day-to-day life is really important, but it may not affect a person's health for 10 or 15 years," said Bergeman. "My lab is looking broadly at the lifespan, because it may not be the major life events – like the loss of a loved one – that really get to you, but it may instead be the daily hassles, time pressures, and bad relationships that in the end have the most detrimental impact on health. Currently, we are in the final year of the study and we are hoping to extend it for another five years to get a broader picture of the impact has during a lifetime."

Explore further: Experiencing major stress makes some older adults better able to handle daily stress

Related Stories

Experiencing major stress makes some older adults better able to handle daily stress

November 18, 2015
Dealing with a major stressful event appears to make some older adults better able to cope with the ups and downs of day-to-day stress, according to new research from North Carolina State University.

Resilience to stress may be key for long-term health

June 9, 2015
Reacting positively to stressful situations may play a key role in long-term health, according to researchers.

Even small stressors may be harmful to men's health, research shows

September 10, 2014
Older men who lead high-stress lives, either from chronic everyday hassles or because of a series of significant life events, are likely to die earlier than the average for their peers, new research from Oregon State University ...

Being positive amid daily stress is good for long-term health

July 17, 2015
Relax. Breathe. It's all small stuff. When faced with life's daily challenges, adults who don't maintain a positive outlook have shown elevated physiological markers for inflaming cardiovascular and autoimmune disease, according ...

Let it go: Reaction to stress more important than its frequency

February 25, 2016
How you perceive and react to stressful events is more important to your health than how frequently you encounter stress, according to health researchers from Penn State and Columbia University.

Reactions to everyday stressors predict future health

November 2, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Contrary to popular perception, stressors don't cause health problems—it's people's reactions to the stressors that determine whether they will suffer health consequences, according to researchers at ...

Recommended for you

Neuroscientists use magnetic stimulation to amplify PTSD therapy

April 19, 2018
Researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas have found that a standard therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is more effective when paired with transcranial magnetic stimulation of the brain.

Research reveals stronger people have healthier brains

April 19, 2018
A study of nearly half a million people has revealed that muscular strength, measured by handgrip, is an indication of how healthy our brains are.

Overcoming bias about music takes work

April 18, 2018
Expectations and biases play a large role in our experiences. This has been demonstrated in studies involving art, wine and even soda. In 2007, Joshua Bell, an internationally acclaimed musician, illustrated the role context ...

Study suggests we can recognize speakers only from how faces move when talking

April 18, 2018
Results of a new study by cognitive psychologist and speech scientist Alexandra Jesse and her linguistics undergraduate student Michael Bartoli at the University of Massachusetts Amherst should help to settle a long-standing ...

Scientists disconfirm belief that humans' physiological reaction to emotions are uniform

April 18, 2018
How do you feel when you're angry? Tense? Jittery? Exhausted? Is it the same every time? Is it identical to how your best friend, co-worker, or barista feel when they experience anger? In all likelihood the answer is no, ...

How mental health diagnosis should be more collaborative

April 18, 2018
Mental health diagnosis should be a collaborative and useful process, not a meaningless label - according to new research from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and the University of East Anglia.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.