Podium Presentation 6th World Congress on Positive Psychology 2019

'Optimal' Stress: A Longitudinal Study On The Potential Positive Effects Of Stress On Resilience In Higher Age (#154)

Jan Höltge 1 2 , Shauna L. Mc Gee 1 2 , Andreas Maercker 1 2 , Myriam V. Thoma 1 2
  1. Psychology, Psychopathology and Clinical Intervention, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  2. University Research Priority Program 'Dynamics of Healthy Aging', University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Background Accumulating research on steeling suggests that a certain (‘optimal’) level of psychosocial stress might improve one’s resilience to adversity. However, there is lack of its research in higher ages and longitudinal research. The aim was to examine the function of ‘optimal’ stress in later life and factors contributing to resilience-improvement.

Method The sample consisted of N=187 participants (Mage=67.32 years, SD=8.54). A one-year longitudinal survey study was conducted. Socio-demographics, adversity experienced over the last year, resilience resources, and satisfaction with life were assessed. Latent profile analysis was used to identify profiles of change in resilience resources.

Results Three profiles emerged: decreased resources (‘Decrease’), stability of resources (‘Maintenance’), and increased resources (‘Increase’). The profiles differed significantly in stress (χ2=22.8, p<.001): ‘Decrease’ was characterized by low, ‘Maintenance’ by moderate, and ‘Increase’ by high stress, which contrasts the ‘classic’ steeling-effect. Age differentiated between the ‘Maintenance’ and ‘Increase’ profile (OR=.18, p=.01, 95% CI [.12, .25]). Satisfaction with life changed according to the change in resources (χ2=7, p=.03).

Conclusion A potential age-specific steeling effect in later life was found, since ‘optimal’ stress was associated with the maintenance of resilience. Thus, a certain level of stress might be supportive of keeping resilience stable in higher age.