Loneliness and Financial Strain Biggest Predictors of Stress in Older Adults

Older adults face unique life conditions that can contribute to stress, including declining health and loneliness. Conversely, stressful conditions can cause people to become physically and psychologically ill. “Specifically, prior to determining which characteristics of an individual may modify the effect of perceived stress, it is useful to explore which features of a person’s life contributed to him or her appraising life as stressful in the first place,” said Stacey B. Scott of the School of Psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “Certain aspects of later life may be especially noxious. For example, regardless of how well or poorly an individual fares in other life domains, the presence of chronic health problems may distinguish those who are highly stressed from those who are not.” Scott, who recently led a study to determine which factors influenced stress in older adults the most, believes that combinations of factors may also increase stress. “In an effort to address these questions, the present study explores the patterns by which life events, neighborhood strain, age-related discrimination (i.e., ageism), social isolation (i.e., loneliness), financial strain, and physical health affect the extent to which older adults perceived themselves as generally ‘stressed,’” said Scott.

Scott looked at 282 older adults and found that loneliness increased perceived stress the most, followed closely by financial concerns, neighborhood status and ageism. “The highest perceived stress in this sample was found among those who reported some of the lowest income; however, some participants in this high stress node also reported midrange and high incomes,” said Scott. “These people, who also report feeling extremely stressed compared to the rest of the sample, would have been missed in an intervention using solely socioeconomic status as a targeting tool.” Scott believes that clinicians can use these findings to help treat clients more effectively. He added, “Together, the analyses highlight what may be missed when stress is used as a simple uni-dimensional construct and can guide differential intervention efforts.”

Reference:
Scott, Stacey B., Brenda R. Jackson, and C.S. Bergeman. “What Contributes to Perceived Stress in Later Life? A Recursive Partitioning Approach.” Psychology and Aging 26.4 (2011): 830-43. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Blakely

    Blakely

    December 27th, 2011 at 5:25 AM

    Older adults have a hard enough time with the aging process as a whole. Add to that having issues with being lonely and then feeling like they don’t have enough money to get by and that is sure to really increase the pressure that they feel. I know that there are even more older adults today feeling that crunch because of the bad economy and the financial hit that their savings have potentially taken during this time. All of this can cause worries for sure.

  • Eddy

    Eddy

    December 27th, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    ^^Certainly my friend.There is just so many problems that hit them all at once.Money is something that can make a journey,no matter how hard it is,seem a little easier and lack of it would just make it tougher for these older folk.

  • Billy D

    Billy D

    December 27th, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    Why do we ignore our older population?
    They can be such a store of valuable information, yet when they get older it is almost as if some families think that it is ok to ignore them and quite literally throw them away.
    As this is evidenced here, when they get older this is the time that they need others with them the most.

  • rosalee shepherd

    rosalee shepherd

    December 28th, 2011 at 12:11 AM

    Another result courtesy of a You don’t say!” institute. Money is always a stressor for me and it will stress me all the way to my grave because people are demanding more and more from me with impunity. It gets worse when your body starts failing you. Why do we live to be 100 if the last 40 years go straight down the tubes?

  • Fawn

    Fawn

    December 28th, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    I agree with rosalee. We all worry about money most of the time, even those who have it worry about saving it and earning even more. This is not going to go away just because we get older. For many it only gets worse because you retire and worry about having enough money to make it month to month. I run into so many older people who have to worry all of the time about how to pay for everything that they need and still have a little left over. Today that just does not seem like it is even a possibility for most of them anymore. So I can really see how they get stressed out and feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel for them.

  • Sammy Dickerson

    Sammy Dickerson

    December 29th, 2011 at 4:39 AM

    It goes down because primates are not supposed to live for much longer than 50 years. That’s when we really start to decline and it only gets worse. The impunity thing is true I find, especially in regards with medical bills. Con artists the lot of them are.

  • Iain T. Reid

    Iain T. Reid

    December 29th, 2011 at 4:47 AM

    As The Beatles would say, “All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”

    When so many are lonely, why is it so tough to make friends and come across companions you could spend social time with? The lonely need to find each other, and I’m not talking about on tacky dating sites. Take up a hobby or join a class and get out once a week at least.

  • Ariel Lee

    Ariel Lee

    December 29th, 2011 at 5:01 AM

    And that’s commonsense, Iain. You’ll hear lonely people complain they can’t meet anyone and yet they don’t take action to change that. There’s people everywhere!! They just can’t be bothered putting one foot in front of another and expect it all to land gift-wrapped in their lap.

    Apathy feeds loneliness and vice versa. You have to break the cycle.

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