Personal Risk and Resilience Factors in the Context of Daily Stress

By Diehl, Manfred; Hay, Elizabeth L. et al. | Annual Review of Gerontology & Geriatrics, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Personal Risk and Resilience Factors in the Context of Daily Stress


Diehl, Manfred, Hay, Elizabeth L., Chui, Helena, Annual Review of Gerontology & Geriatrics


ABSTRACT

This chapter focuses on the role that personal risk and resilience factors play as adults of all ages cope with the stressors encountered in everyday life. Theorists have suggested that researchers should focus on the effects of daily stress and coping rather than focusing exclusively on major life events and chronic stress and have proposed that understanding how adults cope with daily stress is a key aspect of understanding long-term well-being and adaptation in adulthood. After presenting a conceptual model outlining the major components of the daily stress process, the chapter reviews the existing empirical literature on personal risk and resilience factors in the context of daily stress. This research clearly suggests that there is no universal generalization that can be made regarding whether chronological age, in and of itself, confers greater vulnerability or resilience onto adults. Instead, we argue that researchers should ask when and under what conditions is age associated with greater vulnerability to daily stress and when and under what conditions is age associated with greater resilience to daily stress. Age differences in reactivity to daily stress are clearly embedded within a complex system of factors-structural, individual, and situational-that influence stress reactivity and stress recovery in several ways. This complexity should not be taken to mean that stress reactivity and recovery cannot be charted or understood. Researchers, however, will need to approach this complexity with a great deal of theoretical, methodological, and statistical rigor to move our understanding of the importance of age in shaping risk and resilience to daily stress forward. The final section of the chapter outlines several directions for future research in the area of aging and resilience. In particular, we argue that a focus on personal risk and resilience factors in the context of daily stress, in combination with the application of sophisticated statistical methods (e.g., dynamic systems modeling), will contribute to a more dynamic and person-centered understanding of processes of resilience.

INTRODUCTION

The role and effects of risk and resilience factors in coping with stress have traditionally been studied in the context of life events and life transitions (Ryff, Singer, Love, & Essex, 1998), or in the context of chronic conditions of disadvantage and adversity (Masten, 2001). However, as research on stress and coping has increasingly moved from the laboratory to real-life settings (Zautra, 2003), this focus has shifted toward the role that such factors play in coping with daily stress (Diehl & Hay, 2010). The focus on daily stress was first advocated by Richard Lazarus and his colleagues in their work on the effects of daily hassles on adults' health (DeLongis, Coyne, Dakof, Folkman, & Lazarus, 1982). Lazarus and Folkman (1984) defined daily hassles as "the little things that can irritate and distress people" (p. 13). Thus, daily stressors are different from major life events and chronic stress, such as the burden of caregiving (see the chapter by Fagundes, Gillie, Deny, Bennett, & Kiecolt-Glaser in this volume) or the stress resulting from a chronic health problem (see the chapter by Lavretsky in this volume), in that they often happen unexpectedly and are time-limited in their occurrence and effect. Typical examples of daily stress are having an argument with another person, getting stuck in a traffic jam while running late for a meeting, or getting some bad news. Although daily hassles tend to be less dramatic than major life events or chronic stressors, researchers assume that daily stressors can pile up within and across days, and can turn into chronic stressors if no resolution is found (e.g., continuous discord with ones spouse). Therefore, Lazarus and Folkman (1984) proposed that daily stressors may be more important for a persons long-term adaptation, health, and well-being than major life events (see also Almeida, 2005). …

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