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Stress and Coping

The Stress Process Paradigm, Types Of Stressors, Individual Differences In Coping With Stress, Coping Responses

Stress and coping with stress have been among the most popular research topics in the social and behavioral sciences over the past twenty years. Despite a long history and a substantial amount of literature on stress and coping, less attention has been paid to stress and coping processes among older adults than in younger persons. This is unfortunate because research on stress and coping in later life can not only improve our understanding of human development and adaptation, but also serve as a basis for interventions and social policies to enhance well-being in later life.

Research suggests that exposure to high levels of stress leads to increased vulnerability to physical and psychological problems in older adults. Highly stressed individuals are more likely to have various health problems, including diminished immune functioning, greater risk of infectious illness, psychological distress such as depressive symptoms, and even increased mortality. However, stress does not produce universally negative outcomes; because of individual differences in coping, some individuals report minimal ill effects from stress or even demonstrate personal benefits from stress. Thus, the study of stress requires attention not only to environmental stressors, but also to factors that may increase vulnerability or provide protection against the ill effects of stress.

There are various models of stress and coping, and different types of stressors and coping resources have been found to affect well-being in older adults. Common and important sources of stress in late life include health problems, family caregiving, and bereavement. There are, however, methodological and conceptual controversies that are particularly important in the field.

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Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 4