Stress, Lifestyle, and Quality of Life in Midlife and Older Australian Women: Results From the Stress and the Health of Women Study

Journal Article

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 70years 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. © 2014 Jacobs Institute of Women's Health.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Seib, C; Whiteside, E; Lee, K; Humphreys, J; Dao Tran, TH; Chopin, L; Anderson, D

Published Date

  • 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 24 / 1

Start / End Page

  • e43 - e52

PubMed ID

  • 24439946

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1049-3867

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.whi.2013.11.004