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How One Deals with Stress Can Greatly Influence Future Health, Study Reports

Update Date: Apr 04, 2013 02:37 PM EDT

Stress has commonly been known as a contributing factor to several health complications and unfortunately for every one, this hindering factor is inevitable in everyday life. Everyday stressors that come from work, family, friends, and more, need to be dealt with and according to a new study, how people deal with these stressor can greatly influence how their health develops over time. It is not necessarily the amount of stressors that people encounter, but rather, how they deal with these stressors. The study looked at how people coped with stress differently and how their mechanisms influenced mental health later on in life. The researchers found that people who dealt with stress negatively had a higher risk for developing a mental illness years later.

The researchers, headed by Susan Charles, a psychology and social behavior professor from the University of California Irvine, looked at 711 male and female participants from the ages of 25 to 74. These participants were interviewed twice, within the gap of 10 years. At the start of the questionnaire, the researchers asked the individuals every day about their daily stressors and emotions that came from stressors over the span of eight days. The emotions that the researchers focused on were negative ones, such as anxiety, sadness, and nervousness. Every participant was required to fill out a questionnaire about his or her overall mental health before the experiment started.

After 10 years, the researchers followed up on these patients' mental health. They found that those who reported feeling more negative emotions when they were stressed had a higher percentage of developing a mental disorder, such as depression. The researchers took into account the participants that already had mental disorders and found that their findings remained the same.

"What our study suggests is that we need to think about how we experience our emotions on a daily basis because it has a long-term impact on our mental health," Charles stated.

The researchers went a step further in their study and suggested different ways that people can start to adapt to stress as a means of preventing the manifestation of mental illnesses. They stated that before entering certain stressful situations, setting goals could help people stay focused on something other than the stress. Furthermore, the researchers state that it is important to remember one's strengths as opposed to weaknesses in moments of high levels of stress.

The study was published in Psychological Science

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