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Personality Linked to Stress Regulation

Posted Aug 24 2013 10:07pm

The biological connection between a person’s disposition and their ability to regulate stress has been elusive.  Joelle Jobin, from Concordia University (Canada), and colleagues explored whether optimism is associated with reduced secretions of cortisol, the stress hormone, among people who perceive stress levels that are higher than their normal average – or higher than the stress levels of other individuals.  The researchers tracked 135 older adults for six years, and collected five saliva samples daily from each subject (to monitor cortisol levels).  Participants were asked to report on the level of stress they perceived in their day-to-day lives, and identify themselves along a continuum as optimists or pessimists. Each person’s levels were then measured against their personal average. The team observed that the pessimist participants tended to have a higher baseline than optimists; pessimists also had trouble with the biological regulation of their system when they encountered particularly stressful situations.   Finding that: “On days where they experience higher than average stress, we see that the pessimists’ stress response is very elevated, and they have trouble bringing their cortisol levels back down. Optimists, by contrast, were protected in these circumstances.”  The team submits that these data confirms a relationship between positivity and stress.

Jobin, Joelle; Wrosch, Carsten; Scheier, Michael F.  “Associations Between Dispositional Optimism and Diurnal Cortisol in a Community Sample: When Stress Is Perceived as Higher Than Normal.” Health Psychology, May 13, 2013.

  
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Tip #192 - Stay Connected
Researchers from the University of Chicago (Illinois, USA) report that social isolation may be detrimental to both mental and physical health. The team analyzed data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, a nationwide US study involving 3,000 men and women, ages 57 to 85 years. They arrived at three key findings regarding the relationships between health and different types of isolation:

• The researchers found that the most socially connected older adults are three times as likely to report very good or excellent health compared to those who are least connected, regardless of whether they feel isolated.

• The team found that older adults who feel least isolated are five times as likely to report very good or excellent health as those who feel most isolated, regardless of their actual level of social connectedness.

• They determined that social disconnectedness is not related to mental health unless it brings feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Separately, Rush University Medical Center (Illinois, USA) researchers studied 906 older men and women, testing their motor functions (including grip, pinch strength, balance, and walking) and surveying their social activity, for a period of 5 years. Those study participants with less social activity were found to have a more rapid rate of motor function decline. Specifically, the team found that every one-point decrease in social activity corresponded to an increase in functional aging of 5 years, translating to a 40% higher risk of death and 65% higher risk of disability.

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