Stress Associated With Early Death

High levels of both major and minor stress impacted male death rates

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Whether you're late for work or getting laid off, how you handle stress may affect your health.

Getting upset over both minor and major problems may shorten men's lives, the authors of a recent study found.

"Learn ways to handle your stress to stay healthy."

The research was done by Carolyn Aldwin, PhD, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research at Oregon State University, and colleagues.

They studied various stressors among 1,293 men who were part of a study on aging. The men completed surveys about their life stresses several times from 1989 until 2005. The researchers looked at death records until 2010. At the start of the study, the average participant was about 65 years old.

The researchers were looking at two main kinds of stress: stressful life events, like deaths, divorce or being laid off from work, and hassles, which are everyday annoyances like marital squabbling or household repairs.

They found that men who reported high levels of either kind of stress were most likely to die.

About 43 percent of all the men had died by 2010.

Almost one-third of men who reported a few stressful life events died, but closer to half of those who claimed a moderate number of stressful life events died.

In terms of hassles, men who reported few everyday hassles had a low death rate of 28.9 percent. Just under half of those with a moderate number of hassles died. About 64.3 percent of men who had a high number of everyday hassles died.

Dr. Aldwin said that how patients handle their stress is what affects their health.

“It’s not the number of hassles that does you in, it’s the perception of them being a big deal that causes problems,” she said in a press release. “Taking things in stride may protect you.”

Dr. Nila Vora, an internal medicine physician at Loyola University Health System in Chicago, said this study adds to literature already written on the topic.

“This is another confirmation of the data showing that everyday niggling aggravations are not benign and can cause biochemical changes such as an increase in the inflammatory markers and procoagulant markers and that chronic stress does lead to increased [blood pressure], and there is a good correlation between high blood pressure and higher cardiovascular mortality," she said.

She told dailyRx News that “the management of this stress induced illness begins first with the recognition that a chronic degree of stress and discontent is not healthy for the heart and that one needs to learn to manage the stresses by better diet, exercises, meditational techniques, creative hobbies and learning to change to positive attitudes and instill a sense of humor.”

The study was published online in Experimental Gerontology in July but has not yet appeared in print.

The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest. Grants from the National Institutes of Health funded the study.

Review Date: 
September 15, 2014
Last Updated:
March 12, 2015