Small hassles can have a big impact when it comes to stress and health effects
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Most of us have some awareness of stress and health effects of too much stress.
But what’s worse for your health? Big stressful life events or little daily hassles?
The stress from little daily hassles can kill you just as easily as that from serious life events, finds a study of its impact on health.
The study looked at stress and health effects in two forms:
- the everyday hassles of such things as commuting, job stress or arguments with family and friends; and
- significant life events, such as job loss or the death of a spouse.
The research found that a high level of daily hassles increased the risk of dying early in older men (all military veterans).
The risk was similar to experiencing more serious life events, like losing a loved one.
Lead researcher Carolyn Aldwin, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University, 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.
Both types appear to be harmful to men’s health, but each type of stress appears to have an independent effect on mortality.
The researchers used data from the US Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study.
They studied stressful life events and everyday hassles for 1,293 men between 1989 and 2005 then followed the men until 2010.
About 43% of the men had died by the end of the study period.
But rates of dying depended on the hassles and stressful life events they had experienced.
The study found that for major stressful events:
- Roughly 36% of men who reported few major stressful events had died;
- 45% of those that experienced a high number of stressful events had died.
The study found for everyday hassles:
- Men who reported few everyday hassles had the lowest mortality rate, at 29%;
- Around 46% of the men reporting a mid-range number of hassles had died by the end of the study; and
- 64% of the men reporting a high number of everyday hassles had died.
To be fair, there’s not much you can do about major stressful events – people (including loved ones) are generally unreliable and have been known to die unexpectedly.
But the researchers noted there is something you can do about daily hassles.
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.
Stressful life events are hard to avoid, but men may live longer if they’re able to control their attitudes about everyday hassles, such as long lines at the store or traffic jams on the drive home.
Don’t make mountains out of molehills
Coping skills are very important.
In case you’re wondering what practical things you can do to deal with stress, there’s a simple tip here.
The study was published in Experimental Gerontology (Aldwin et al., 2014)
Image credit: pixabay