Stress and Coping
Outcomes Of Stress
Studies focusing on stress and coping in older adults find considerable evidence that stress places older adults at risk for problems in both mental and physical health. Reviews of literature on stressors such as chronic health problems, bereavement, and family caregiving conclude that these stressors are significantly associated with greater risk of negative outcomes such as mortality, lower psychological well-being, and higher incidence of mental disorders such as depressive symptoms. One study of caregiving stress deserves special attention. Schulz and Beach (1999) found evidence that caregivers who feel highly stressed in their roles showed a 63 percent increase in mortality over a four-year period compared with noncaregivers. This increase in risk of mortality was found only among caregivers who reported being highly stressed; caregivers who did not report the subjective experience of being stressed showed no elevation in mortality. Other studies of caregivers and health functioning have provided convincing evidence that caregivers can experience elevated blood pressure, altered lipid profiles, impaired immune functioning, and greater vulnerability to infectious illness due to caregiving stress. These projects find that negative effects of stress are not uniform and vary according to the types of coping strategies and psychological and social resources used to cope.