Major Stress Comes from Minor Hassles

Work & Family Life, December 2016 | Go to article overview

Major Stress Comes from Minor Hassles


The greatest toll in our daily lives comes not from traumatic events such as a divorce, a serious illness or the loss of a job. It's the minor problems that get us down-like getting into an argument with a coworker or friend, being stuck in traffic, or hearing a neighbor's noise, according to a study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

Penn State and Columbia University resesarchers have reported that the cumulative impact of relatively unimportant day-to-day hassles can be harmful to our health-increasing the risk of high blood pressure, chest pain and asthma attacks. They say it depends a lot on how we perceive and cope with the unavoidable little problems that arise.

The study focused on the impact of daily events on heart rate variability (HRC). A higher HRC is a sign of the heart's ability to respond to challenges and, more generally, of a healthy nervous system. A lower HRV is associated with depression, negative emotional states and increased cardiovascular risk.

For their study, researchers used electrocardiograms to measure the resting HRV levels of 909 people from ages 35 to 85. Then, for eight days, they interviewed the participants about any stressful events they had experienced. …

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