The Impact Of Age on Stress Response and Forecasting At Home


Stress seems to be an inevitable part of human life. Like most things, it has its pros and cons, especially when experienced excessively. People experience daily stressors that manifest in routine tangible events of day-to-day living, including arguments, commuting from work and home, and other unexpected events such as a malfunctioning home appliance, an unexpected work deadline, or a traffic jam.

Although daily stressors may seem minor compared to major life events, they can negatively impact physical and psychological well-being. Our capacity to act during this situation is crucial in minimizing its effect on our mental and overall well-being. Several factors may affect how a person responds to or predicts anticipated stress. 

Concerning this, a study conducted by North Carolina State University researchers examined the relationship of age to how a person predicts and copes with the anticipated daily stressors, particularly at home. The researchers suggested that stressor forecasting and anticipatory coping differ based on age and found other significant findings that will be highlighted in this article.

The Concept of Stressor Forecasting and Anticipatory Coping

Stressor forecasting refers to a person’s prediction or anticipation about whether a stressor will occur at a certain time in the future, which may have benefits that differ among age groups and depending on the circumstances. 

According to Strength and Vulnerability Integration (SAVI), age-related gains in emotional well-being are linked with more effective attentional strategies, reflection, and actions that help older adults avoid negative experiences or mitigate them when they do happen.

When a future stressor seems unavoidable, anticipatory coping strategies may take place. Anticipatory coping refers to the efforts to prepare for the stressful impacts of an upcoming event that is likely to happen.

According to a source, stressors forecasts and anticipatory coping come hand in hand within stressor domains. Laboratory-based works show that physiological anticipation related to forecasts, in the form of the cortisol awakening response, is associated with successful coping with daily stressors.

Some of the most common stressors reported by people of all ages include interpersonal stressors such as arguments and potential arguments, home, work/volunteer, and network stressors that happen to close friends or family members.

The Role of Age in Stress Forecasting and Anticipatory Coping

The study by North Carolina State University researchers focused on the link between the common stressor domains reported by individuals of all ages and the roles of stressor forecasting and anticipatory coping towards it. They aimed to reflect the dynamic nature of forecasting stressors, examine a person’s associations of anticipatory coping and stressor forecasting ratings in each stressor domain, and age differences in forecasting and coping with future stressors. 

The researchers recruited 107 adults aged 18 to 36 years old and 116 adults aged 60 to 90 years old who completed a survey within eight consecutive days related to stressors, mood, the extent to which they predicted stress happening the next day, and how they were using anticipatory coping strategies to prepare for those stressors.

The analysis of the data provided to the researchers led to the following findings:

  • Interpersonal and avoided arguments, work, home, and network stressors accounted for 78 percent of all reported stressors. 
  • There are age differences in home stressors, with household maintenance being the most reported among young and older people. 
  • Older adults aged 60 and above predicted and experienced more stressful events at home than younger adults.
  • Younger adults aged 36 and below are doing a better job of using some anticipatory coping skills to mitigate the impact of home stressors, except when they get stuck in so-called stagnant deliberation.
  • Accurately predicting home stressors had very little impact on the mood of older adults.

The study’s findings add to the evidence for age differences in stressor forecasting and anticipatory coping. The researchers concluded that older adults are better than younger adults at predicting stressful events at home. However, older adults are not as good at using those predictions to minimize the negative impacts of stress.

The researchers also suggested that the strengths and vulnerabilities that come with aging may help explain the age differences in reactivity to home stressors depending on a previous-day forecast of the home stressor and previous-day anticipatory coping. They also stated that future researchers should diversify their respondents, focus on thoughts and behaviors before stressors, and examine the process of anticipating stressors concerning positive affect to strengthen and improve the knowledge regarding the relationship of age to anticipatory coping and stress forecasting.

Journal Reference

Neupert, S. D., & Bellingtier, J. A. (2018). Daily Stressor forecasts and anticipatory coping: Age differences in dynamic, domain-specific processes. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 74(1), 17–28. 

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