The stress from little daily hassles can kill you just as easily as that from serious life events, finds a new study of its impact on health.
The research found that when older men experienced a high level of daily hassles they were at an increased risk of dying early just as if they’d experienced more serious life events, like losing a loved one (Aldwin et al., 2014).
Carolyn Aldwin, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University, who led the research said:
“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.”
The study looked at both everyday hassles, like work stress or family arguments, along with more devastating events like the loss of a spouse.
While both types have an effect on the chances of dying, their data showed that each was independent of the other.
Some people may be hit by traumatic life events, but this may not be translated into everyday hassles because of the way they deal with stress.
“It’s not the number of hassles that does you in, it’s the perception of them being a big deal that causes problems.
Taking things in stride may protect you.”
The results come from a study of 1,293 male veterans, some of whom were followed for over 20 years.
Just under half of those followed went on to die during the period of the study, but their chances of dying depended on the hassles and stressful life events they’d experienced.
Only 29% of those who’d experienced few everyday hassles had died, while that proportion jumped to 64% for those who’d experienced high levels of everyday hassles.
For major, stressful life events, the figures were around one-third dying for those who’d experienced few events, increasing to around 50% for those who’d experienced a high number of stressful events.
There’s little we can do about the major stressful events in life, but how we react to the little daily hassles can have an important effect on our health.
As I’ve said before:
“Whether problems are big or small, what matters is how we react to them.
People who tend to do worst are those that have the strongest emotional reaction to both big and small events.
We tend to think that depression is always a reaction to some really bad thing happening and sometimes it is; but sometimes it’s all those little things piled on top of one another that can get you down.” (from: Can Everyday Hassles Make You Depressed?)
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Image credit: Stephen Poff