Research indicates that small daily stressors could have an impact on overall brain health

New research has found how we react to stress, including daily stressful activities (such as driving or completing chores), can affect the health and wellbeing of our brains.

Here’s what you need to know.

The research

The study, led by Associate Professor at Oregon’s State University Robert Stawski, examined the cognitive health of 111 seniors (aged 65 – 95) over two and a half years.

Each participant completed standardised assessments every six months, including looking at two sets of numbers and finding if the numbers appeared in both sets.

The team behind the study specifically looked at the participants response to daily stressors (such as traffic jams) and how they affected their health.

They also asked participants about stressors they experienced that day along with stressors of friends and family.

The findings

The results found those who responded to minor daily stressors negatively had higher inconsistency when responding to the standardised assessments – suggesting poor brain health and mental focus.

According to Dr Stawski, though we can’t get rid of daily stressors completely, helping people respond to these stressors positively could have an effect on cognitive health.

“These results confirm that people’s daily emotions and how they respond to their stressors play an important role in cognitive health… It’s not the stressor itself that contributes to mental declines, but how a person responds that affects the brain,” Dr Stawski said.

The results also found for those aged 60 – 70 years more stress appeared to benefit their health compared to those in their late 70’s – late 90’s.

“These relatively younger participants may have a more active lifestyle to begin with, more social, and professional engagement, which could sharpen their mental functioning.”