Aging and Older Adults’ Reactions to Daily Stressors

A recent study published in Psychology and Aging further supports that the aging process positively contributes to older adults’ ability to preserve their affective well-being. Explicitly, the study found that older adults didn’t display as strong a relationship between daily stressors and negative affect as compared to younger adults.

Interestingly, although the frequency of negative emotions and intrusive thoughts were similar for both older and younger adults, older adults displayed less of an increase in negative emotions than the younger adults on days when stressors were experienced.

The results from this study are consistent with other studies that have examined emotional reactivity in relation to age. Overall, this stream of research suggests that the aging process promotes habituation to external factors and daily stressors which tend to spur more extreme negative emotions in young adulthood.

With this in mind, the authors of the current study emphasized that the underlying “driver” of this finding is not yet fully understood. It is clear that older adults often experience weaker stress-affect couplings than their younger counterparts, however, researchers do not know why this is the case. Clarifying the role of intrusive thoughts and emotions in older adults is a topic that will most likely continue to receive attention in the future.

Source: Brose, A.; Schmiedek, F.; Lovden, M.; and Lindenberger, U. (2011). “Normal aging dampens the link between intrusive thoughts and negative affect in reaction to daily stressors.” Psychology and Aging, 26: 488–502.