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Just can’t ‘let it go’? You’ll pay later for holding on to all that stress, study says

A study published in the journal Association for Psychological Science found that people who allowed negative emotions to seep over from one day to the next were more likely to have negative health outcomes a decade later.
A study published in the journal Association for Psychological Science found that people who allowed negative emotions to seep over from one day to the next were more likely to have negative health outcomes a decade later. Creative Commons

Are yesterday’s troubles still getting you down?

People who answered “yes” to that question might pay for it later in life, according to a study published in the journal Association for Psychological Science. The research found that those who allowed negative emotions to seep from one day to the next were more likely to have negative health outcomes a decade later.

The study examined 1,155 people from across the U.S who took part in the Midlife in the United States Survey. At first, scientists examined the participants’ emotions and the stressors they encountered for eight days, the study says. Then they looked at the health outcomes of those same people a decade later.

Granted, most people struggled with keeping stress from persisting for multiple days, the study found. And those who held on to negative emotions had a higher rate of chronic illnesses, impairments and trouble with things such as walking up stairs or dressing themselves.

That’s why even the slightest inconvenience — like rough traffic during your morning commute — can bring long-term pain if you don’t manage it well, said Kate Leger, a psychological scientist at the University of California, Irvine.

“Our research shows that negative emotions that linger after even minor, daily stressors have important implications for our long-term physical health,” she told Psychological Science. “When most people think of the types of stressors that impact health, they think of the big things, major life events that severely impact their lives, such as the death of a loved one or getting divorced.

“But accumulating findings suggest that it’s not just the big events, but minor, everyday stressors that can impact our health as well.”

These findings held up regardless of gender, health and education levels, the study says, leading researchers to declare that “affective recovery from daily stressors has unique importance for long-term physical health.”

In other words, you need to “let it go.”

“Stress is common in our everyday lives,” Leger told Psychological Science. “It happens at work, it happens at school, it happens at home and in our relationships.

“Our research shows that the strategy to ‘just let it go’ could be beneficial to our long term physical health.”

Another study suggested that a person’s mood can alter future health.

Traits like stubbornness, optimism, a love for family and country, and a willingness to work hard are common among some Italians aged 90 to 101, according to a study published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics. That might offer clues for a longer life.

Researchers from the University of Rome La Sapienza and University of California San Diego School of Medicine studied 29 of those older Italians — and 51 of their family members aged 50 to 75 — who live in remote villages straddled by the Mediterranean Sea on one side and mountains on the other.

It was discovered that, while having worse physical health, the Italians nearing a century of living had improved mental well-being when compared with their younger family members, according to the study. The study attributed that to the strong-willed nature of those nonagenarians, who spoke to researchers about their beliefs, history of migration, family and country.

In sum, the study suggested that stubborn people might have another reason to be headstrong — because it keeps them alive longer.

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