Older people who have experienced stressful life events such as divorce, marriage difficulties and bereavement are calmer and more stable in the face of new difficulties, researchers have claimed.
A team from North Carolina State University polled adults aged between 60 and 90 on their daily experiences and how they responded to stress. They were also asked to discuss their views of age: how old they felt on particular days and how old they believed they looked. They found that respondents who had experienced stressful events such as a divorce coped with day-to-day strains better than the other respondents.
Respondents also felt that they looked years younger than their actual age on days which were free of stress, but oddly, those who had experienced major stressors in the past felt they looked even younger on days they encountered new stressful situations – perhaps because they recalled how they had been during their previous experiences. Lead researcher Jennifer Bellingtier said this finding had surprised her team.
“We are now considering how people’s attitudes about their ageing (i.e. feeling positive or negative about changes related to ageing) influence an individual’s response to stressors. We see ageing attitudes as comparable to major life-event stressors, in that they may function as important background factors that impact how individuals respond.”
The study was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.
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