By Donna Webb, Seniors Convenor
On January 23, 2023 I attended a presentation entitled “Finally, Some Good News About Stress! The Benefits of (Some) Daily Challenge”.
The speaker was Dr. David Almeida, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies and a faculty member of the Center for Healthy Aging at Penn State University. Dr. Almeida earned his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Victoria. His research examines the effects of biological and self-reported indicators of stress on health. His primary interest has been the role of daily stress on healthy aging but has also examined stress processes in specific populations and contexts, such as the workplace and family interactions, parents of children with developmental disabilities, and family caregivers.
Research documents the harmful effects of daily stressors on well-being, but often ignored in these studies are people reporting no stressors. This talk examined the benefits and costs of a “stressor-free life”, with a focus on the potential benefits of small amounts of daily stress. He used data from the National Studies of Daily Experiences (NSDE) to calculate the prevalence of adults who reported no daily stressors over the course of 8 consecutive days. Data were comprised of 20,188 daily interviews from 2,804 adults ages 25-85. Results indicated that 10% of adults reported no stressors over the 8 days. Stressor-free adults were less likely to report positive events in their daily lives.
Previous assumptions about stress were refuted with twenty years of funded research, for example: stress is universal, stress is unhealthy, stress should be avoided, resilience to stress is exogenous to the stress process. Instead, the study found that having a purpose in life reduces reactivity to daily stress and exercise reduces reactivity to daily stress. Almost 10% of the study participants reported no stressors. These individuals reported fewer positive life events, fewer social support exchanges, and the found these participants scored lower in present and future cognitive functioning.
The Healthy Aging Public Lecture Series is sponsored by the Edwin S.H. Leong Healthy Aging Program and the UBC School of Kinesiology and supported by the Providence Health Care Dialogue on Aging Public Presentation Series.