A 6-year-old feels stress on the first day of kindergarten. A 12-year-old feels stress at a soccer playoff game. And so it continues on into young adulthood, middle age and life’s further reaches. The triggers of stress may change over the years, but the phenomenon of a stressful moment — that sudden eruption of strong physiological and emotional reactions we have all felt — mostly remains the same.
The difference is how it affects us.
With age, our bodies react more intensely to stress; its effects on our health can become more toxic; and, once triggered, our bodies take longer to return to baseline. And while, as older adults, we may have fewer moments of acute stress — those onetime episodes of tension, confrontation or fright that are an inevitable part of modern life — we are more apt to be faced with chronic challenges like illness, financial insecurity or caregiving situations that can repeatedly trigger stressful reactions over the span of years, even decades.
But there is good news too: While age may erode our natural defenses against stress, it also endows us with powerful new weapons with which to fight back.
Why we stress less
Polls consistently show that as an older adult, you are simply better at handling stressful situations than your younger cohorts. Case in point: a little radar blip known as COVID-19. Ninety-four percent of Americans who have been killed by the disease were 50 and older. Adults 65 and older make up only 17 percent of the U.S. population but account for 76 percent of COVID-19 deaths.
To learn more about stress and its impact on the body after age 50, from AARP, CLICK HERE.