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Surprising Science

It’s How You Handle Stress, Not Stress Itself, That Shapes Your Health

The power to remain healthy despite life's pressures lies within us, suggests new research out of Penn State. People who become upset today face health consequences in the future. 

What’s the Latest Development?

A team of researchers at Penn State have found that how we react to stress today helps determine our quality of health decades down the line. “The team found that people who become upset by daily stressors and continue to dwell on them after they have passed were more likely to suffer from chronic health problems—especially pain, such as that related to arthritis, and cardiovascular issues10 years later.” Researchers surveyed individuals on their daily stress levels and also measured levels of cortisol, a well-known stress hormone, in their saliva. 

What’s the Big Idea?

According to the new research, elderly and poorly educated populations experience the least amount of stress but often lack the tools needed to cope with life’s pressures. While stress may be a symptom that a person’s life is filled with hardship, it could also simply mean that the person is engaged in a wide variety of activities and experiences. “If this is the case, reducing exposure to stressors isn’t the answer,” said David Almeida, professor of human development and family studies. “We just need to figure out how to manage them better.”

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