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Do you have to let it linger? Study shows letting go of stressors helps long-term health

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Photo: fizkes/iStockphoto

Irvine, CA — Have you ever had a disagreement with a co-worker that had you fretting for days? New research claims lingering feelings of stress may negatively affect your future health.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine surveyed more than 1,100 adults about daily stressors. Over an eight-day period, participants provided information about the number and type of stressors they experienced (e.g., an argument with someone, something bad happening to a person close to the participant, or discrimination based on age or race), how they felt in the 24 hours after the incidents (e.g., nervous, worthless, hopeless, lonely, afraid, irritable, ashamed, frustrated or fidgety) and whether those emotions changed throughout the day.

Almost 10 years later, the same participants were surveyed on their physical health – specifically, 26 different chronic conditions, as well as heart disease or cancer. Also included were questions on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities, including climbing stairs, walking, carrying groceries, etc., and participants’ opinions on whether their health affected how they performed these activities.

Analysis showed that participants who continued to experience negative feelings about a stressful event the next day were more likely to have chronic physical health conditions and limitations in their day-to-day lives.

“This means that health outcomes don’t just reflect how people react to daily stressors, or the number of stressors they are exposed to – there is something unique about how negative they feel the next day that has important consequences for physical health,” researcher Kate Leger, of the UC, Irvine’s Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, said in an April 17 press release. “Our research shows that the strategy to ‘just let it go’ could be beneficial to our long-term physical health.”

The study was published March 19 in the journal Psychological Science.

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