Stress in Seniors: An Unhealthy Legacy On Aging 

Stress is often related to mental or physical health complications for people of any age, but its harmful impact tends to acutely impact seniors. In particular, mental health is a growing concern among aging adults, with roughly 20% of seniors suffering from psychiatric disorders.  Although stress is an unavoidable part of life, it’s important to be aware of the signs how it affects seniors so you can monitor symptoms and try to reduce the stress as much as possible.

Mental Health

For those already dealing with a mood disorder such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, stress can exacerbate the symptoms and have a greater emotional impact.  Even if you don’t have these conditions, stress can often lead to changes in personality and emotional stability, and cause issues like irritability, frustration, anger, mood swings, and communication problems, to name a few.  Stress also frequently leads to interrupted or disturbed sleep schedules, which negatively influences both mental and physical health.

Physical Health

Not only does stress have many negative mental effects, it can cause physical challenges, both in the short and long-term  including digestive troubles, headaches, elevated asthma, and high blood pressure.   Stress can also increase the risk of heart disease, making heart attacks or strokes more likely.  Adults over the age of 60 already have an increased risk of developing heart conditions, and excessive stress can exacerbate the risks among what is already a high-risk population for heart ailments.

Stress and Caregivers

Stress has been found to be more prevalent and severe among caregivers, especially those who are seniors.  Aging caregivers in particular, reported feeling more stressed rating their anxiety levels as 6.5 out of ten as opposed to the average 4.8, Caregivers over the age of 50 also were more likely to report lower marriage satisfaction, with 50% saying they were happy with their partner compared to 69% of non-caregivers reporting marriage satisfaction.  Many caregivers were also shown to struggle at elevated levels with physical health, and displayed a greater tendency to exhibit unhealthy, stress-related behavior such as skipping meals or missing out on sleep.

Stress is often a silent killer, which makes it all the more important for us to not underestimate the risks, especially for our vulnerable seniors.

Article Written by Sally Writes, Guest Contributor to Pride PHC
Simon Wijers


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