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How your reactions to everyday stressors may influence future health

Past research has linked stress to a variety of health conditions ranging from the common cold to Alzheimer’s disease. Now a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine shows that it may be how people react to stressors that determine whether they will suffer health consequences, rather than the stress itself.

During the study, Penn State scientists investigated the relationship among stressful events in daily life, people’s reactions to those events, and their health and well-being 10 years later. They used a subset of people participating in the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, a national longitudinal study being funded by the National Institute on Aging. Futurity reports:

... the team found that people who become upset by daily stressors and continue to dwell on them after they have passed were more likely to suffer from chronic health problems—especially pain, such as that related to arthritis, and cardiovascular issues—10 years later.

“I like to think of people as being one of two types,” [David Almeida, PhD, a professor of human development and family studies at Penn State] says. “With Velcro people, when a stressor happens it sticks to them; they get really upset and, by the end of the day, they are still grumpy and fuming. With Teflon people, when stressors happen to them they slide right off.

“It’s the Velcro people who end up suffering health consequences down the road.”

On a related note, David Spiegel, MD, director of the Stanford Center for Stress and Health and medical director of the Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine, is taking questions this week about managing holiday stress and depression as part of our Ask Stanford Med series. Questions can be submitted to Spiegel by either sending a tweet that includes the hashtag #AskSUMed or posting a question in the comments section of this entry.

Previously: Ask Stanford Med: David Spiegel taking questions on holiday stress and depression, Study shows chronic stress in adolescence may impair memory, Study suggests anticipation of stress may accelerate cellular aging, Workplace stress and how it influences health and How work stress affects wellness, health-care costs
Photo by Patrick Denker

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