Researchers have notoriously indicated that older adults are more resilient than younger adults. A new study indicates that they are also less likely to experience daily stress.
Researchers at Penn State conducted a study examining changes in stress among adults between the ages of 22-77 using longitudinal data from the National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE). In order to examine daily levels of stress, respondents kept daily stress diaries. As part of the process, respondents were asked to complete a series of phone interviews eight days in a row. They were then recontacted to complete the same set of interviews every nine years over a span of 20 years.
According to the findings, older adults experience fewer stressors than younger adults. For instance, 25-year-olds reported experiencing stressors 50% of the time, compared to 70-year-olds who reported experiencing stressors 30% of the time. Researchers theorize that younger adults are exposed to more stressors as they try to balance more social roles and responsibilities, including jobs, families, and homes, all of which can increase daily stress. Conversely, older adults are more interested in maximizing the joy in their life given the time that they have left. Stress further tends to decrease until individuals reach their mid-50s. However, it then increases in the late 60s and early 70s, likely resulting from increased challenges in daily living.
When exposed to stressors, older adults are also less emotionally reactive. For instance, 25-year-olds tend to be much grumpier on days in which they experience stress compared to older adults. The consequences of how young adults respond to stressors further impact health in old age. For instance, younger adults who respond less favorably to stressors are more likely to exhibit health problems as they age than are young adults who respond more favorably. Thus, while older adults may experience less stress, the consequences of stress and stress responses on health accumulate over the life course.
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Almeida, D. M., Rush, J., Mogle, J., Piazza, J. R., Cerino, E., & Charles, S. T. (2022). Longitudinal change in daily stress across 20 years of adulthood: Results from the national study of daily experiences. Developmental Psychology.