Stress, lifestyle, and quality of life in midlife and older Australian women: results from the Stress and the Health of Women Study.
BACKGROUND: Chronic psychological stress may pose a serious threat to health, although the mechanisms are not fully understood. This study examines the impact of stress on modifiable lifestyle factors, depressive symptoms, health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and chronic illness in older Australian women. METHODS: Cross-sectional data were collected from a random sample of 181 older adults aged 60 to 70 years from rural and urban areas of South-East Queensland, Australia. We used structural equation modelling to examine associations between stress, modifiable lifestyle factors, HRQOL, and chronic illness. FINDINGS: Parameter estimates show that older women who reported life stressors where they felt helpless and feared for their life (high-magnitude stressors) also reported higher body mass index (p = .03) and more chronic illness (p < .01). In contrast, duration of exposure to life stressors was associated with higher depressive symptom scores (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale; p = .02) and sleep disturbance scores (p < .01). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings support the link between traumatic personal histories (exposure to high-magnitude stressors) and unhealthy lifestyle factors. Findings highlight the need for more research on how stress reduction, a healthy lifestyle, and positive coping strategies can be used to reduce the effects of high-magnitude stress on HRQOL and chronic illness.
Seib, C; Whiteside, E; Lee, K; Humphreys, J; Tran, THD; Chopin, L; Anderson, D
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