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The Harmful Effects of Stress on Seniors

Stress in elderly

We all experience stress in our lives – be it in our homes, school, or work. Stress can affect us in several ways, both emotionally and physically, and in varying intensity.

Stress remains a constant concern, especially among seniors, mainly because of a lack of independence, reduced social life, boredom, and decreased health. 

But what exactly is stress? What are the effects of stress on the aging population? How can seniors manage it?

What is Stress?

This is a feeling of physical or emotional pressure. Stress may result from a thought or an event that makes you angry, nervous, or frustrated.

When stressed, you feel upset or threatened, and your body creates a stress response, which can cause various physical and emotional symptoms, affecting the way you behave.

To the elderly, stress could lead to various challenges, ranging from minor problems like an upset stomach to significant issues like diabetes and heart disease.

And with about 15% of the world’s aging population suffering from stress-induced mental disorders, it’s important to be aware of the effects of stress on the aging population.

Which are the Effects of Stress on Older Adults?

Whether it’s your aging relative or a friend, stress could be negatively affecting their health, and you or they may not realize it. They may be blaming certain meals for an upset stomach, but stress may be the cause. Below are the significant stress impacts on older adults:

Heart problems

Stress among seniors can spike adrenaline, which, in turn, raises heart rate and blood pressure. Over time, this can lead to heart problems.

Another hypothesis is that stress among older adults is associated with such ‘relief activities’ as excessive drinking, smoking, or overeating. In turn, these activities may damage blood vessels, increasing the risk of developing heart issues.

Stomach Issues

Stress leads to inflammation which can affect the intestines and delicate linings of the stomach among seniors. In turn, this may lead to constipation, constant heartburn, or diarrhea among older adults.


Stress hormones in an individual’s body affect their glucose levels. These hormones can increase blood sugar levels, heart rate, and blood pressure. And given that seniors often have a compromised immune system, increasing blood sugar levels raises the risk of developing diabetes.


Reduced motor skills, social life, and independence may lead to depression among the elderly. Adding stress to this mix can only aggravate this problem.


Cortisol, a hormone released when an individual is stressed, is associated with memory problems. Also, stress is linked to anxiety and depression, which is associated with dementia. 

How Can You Manage Stress among the Older Adults?

When stress is chronic, it can take a toll on the well-being of seniors, reducing their quality of life and may negatively affect their life expectancy. That’s why it’s vital to do the following to manage their stress levels.

1. Exercise

Physical exercise increases the production of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good transmitters, reducing stress. You may encourage your aging loved ones to exercise or take a walk when they can feel the effects of stress come on.

2. Volunteering

Encourage the aging to participate in community activities. This helps them build a support network as well as keep their mind active.

3. Eating healthily

When stressed, seniors may turn to excessive eating as a coping mechanism for stress. Unfortunately, eating foods high in sugar and fat can only make stress associated issues worse. To effectively cope with stress, always encourage your aging loved ones to adopt a healthy diet and not see food as a coping mechanism.

4. Seek professional assistance

If stress persists, seek the help of a professional. These experts are well-positioned to help seniors manage stress better and minimize physical damage to an ageing population.

Moreover, different kinds of therapies can also help overcome the challenge of stress, for instance – Physiotherapy and Occupational therapy.


It’s important to mitigate the effects of stress before it can take a toll on your quality of life. It can help reduce hospital visits, stomach disorders, and other disabilities. OSAN offers a range of disability housing services that can provide seniors with the best quality of life. Contact us today for more information.

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