Aging & Longevity
Older Men Living with Stress Die
Men may live longer if they’re able
to control their attitudes about everyday hassles
Mountains Out of Molehills'
Sept. 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
shows. Taking things in stride, however, appears to offer some
“We’re looking at long-term
patterns of stress – if your stress level is chronically high, it could
impact your mortality, or if you have a series of stressful life events,
that could affect your mortality,” said
Carolyn Aldwin, director of the
Center for Healthy Aging Research in the
College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.
Her study looked at two types of
stress: the everyday hassles of such things as commuting, job stress or
arguments with family and friends; and significant life events, such as
job loss or the death of a spouse.
Both types appear to be harmful to
men’s health, but each type of stress appears to have an independent
effect on mortality. Someone experiencing several stressful life events
does not necessarily have high levels of stress from everyday hassles,
Aldwin said. That is determined more by how a person reacts to the
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“It’s not the number of hassles
that does you in, it’s the perception of them being a big deal that
causes problems,” Aldwin said. “Taking things in stride may protect
Aldwin’s latest research on
long-term patterns of stress in men was published recently in the
journal “Experimental Gerontology.” Co-authors of the study were Yu-Jin
Jeong of Chonbuk National University in Korea; Heidi Igarashi and
Soyoung Choun of OSU; and Avron Spiro III of Boston University. The
research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the
Department of Veterans Affairs.
The researchers used data from the
Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. They studied stressful life
events and everyday hassles for 1,293 men between 1989 and 2005 then
followed the men until 2010. About 43 percent of the men had died by the
end of the study period.
About a third of the men who
reported having few stressful life events had died, while closer to half
of the men reporting moderate or high numbers of stressful events had
died by the end of the study.
Men who reported few everyday
hassles had the lowest mortality rate, at 28.7 percent. Just under half
of the men reporting a mid-range number of hassles had died by the end
of the study, while 64.3 percent of the men reporting a high number of
hassles had died.
Stressful life events are hard to
avoid, but men may live longer if they’re able to control their
attitudes about everyday hassles, such as long lines at the store or
traffic jams on the drive home, Aldwin said.
“Don’t make mountains out of
molehills,” she said. “Coping skills are very important.”
The study gives a snapshot of the
effects of stress on men’s lives and the findings are not a long-term
predictor of health, she said. Stress and other health issues can
develop over a long period of time.
Aldwin said future research will
look more closely at the different stressors’ effects on health to see
if the two types of stress have similar or different impacts on the
body’s physiology. Understanding how stress affects health.
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