Stress and Health through Middle to Late Adulthood
South African College of Applied Psychology (Pty) Ltd.
Developmental Psychology B
19 April 2018
Plagiarism DeclarationIn accordance with SACAP’s Plagiarism Prevention Policy and Student Code of Conduct, Wellness and Disciplinary Policy, I, Wafeeqah Clayton, the undersigned, hereby declare that I have abided by APA referencing guidelines, that the work contained in this assessment submission is my own original work, and that I have not previously in its entirety, or in part, submitted this work previously as part of a module or qualification.
Signature: Wafeeqah Clayton Date: 19 April 2018
Table of Contents
TOC o “1-3” h z u Plagiarism Declaration PAGEREF _Toc512277238 h 2Introduction PAGEREF _Toc512277239 h 4Biological, Psychological, Sociocultural, and Lifecycle Influences on Stress and Health through Middle to Late Adulthood PAGEREF _Toc512277240 h 5Sources of Stress and Stress Reduction PAGEREF _Toc512277241 h 8Behavioral Interventions for Stress Reductions PAGEREF _Toc512277242 h 10Development through the Biopsychosocial Framework PAGEREF _Toc512277243 h 12Conclusion PAGEREF _Toc512277244 h 12References PAGEREF _Toc512277245 h 13
IntroductionThis assignment will reflect on stress and health through middle to late adulthood, furthermore it will describe the biological, psychological, sociocultural and lifecycle influences on stress and health. It will then provide several sources of stress and stress reactions during middle to late adulthood and provide ways in which one can reduce stress during this time. Lastly this assignment will provide a reflection on the relevance and importance of viewing human development through the biopsychosocial framework.
Biological, Psychological, Sociocultural, and Lifecycle Influences on Stress and Health through Middle to Late AdulthoodBiological
According to CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016) through middle and late-adulthood, one’s body undergoes dramatic change. Many symptoms manifest in middle adulthood and worsen as one gets older. These include changes in appearance like the visibility of grey hairs and wrinkles, male pattern baldness and weight-gain and weight-lossCITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016). During perimenopause and menopause, women experience decreased reproductive capacity, which may result in a loss of bone mass. In severe cases, individuals may develop arthritis or osteoporosis, causing spinal vertebrae to collapse and posture to stoop CITATION Bar09 l 1033 (Newman, 2009).
Late adulthood used to be seen as a time of degeneration; but with the initiation of technology and medical advances, it is also seen as a time of growth and grace CITATION Bar09 l 1033 (Newman, 2009). This is known as the Third Age, It is characterized by prolonged life expectancy during which individuals can draw on cognitive and emotional reserves that empower them in reflecting on their lives as well spentCITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016). The Fourth Age, however, represents the latter part of aging, when individuals are at their least capable and confidentCITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016). According to CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016) this stage is characterized by loss of independence, a susceptibility to disease and a decrease in health. Individuals display a slower reaction time, reduced sensory ability, irregular sleeping patterns and overall decrease in functionality, making them vulnerable to dementia and diseaseCITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016).
According to CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016) One’s cognition is both positively and negatively affected in middle adulthood: The mechanics of intelligence (comprising of fluid intelligence) weakens with age because it is associated with the central nervous systemCITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016). However, the pragmatics of intelligence (comprising of crystallized intelligence) is likely to increase with age because it is influenced by psychological, sociocultural and environmental factorsCITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016). These are areas that individuals interact with more and more as they age, therefore deepening their experience and broadening their knowledge structures. CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016) Says thus, with the growing of crystallized intelligence, middle aged individuals become experts in that which interests them and what they have practiced over their lifespan.
According to CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016) in the third age of late adulthood, individuals may still hold the status of expert in some areas and use this expertise to impart knowledge to younger generations. However, the fourth age sees with it a decline in memory, slower thinking and delayed speech – all of which are inevitable symptoms of ageingCITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016).
“The demands and rewards of care-giving and multi-generational living are important aspects of middle-aged adults’ lives” CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016). It is a time when one’s social convoy (the group of people that provide support and company as one travels through life) is at its largest. Thus, social and familial roles like employee, spouse, parent and adult child need to be carefully negotiatedCITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016). The expectations and how one deals with these will largely be determined by one’s ethnic and cultural values. For example, if filial obligation is an expectation associated with one’s culture, one can leave responsible and even guilty around parents’ health CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016).
According to CITATION Jac13 l 1033 (Jacki Watts, 2013) in late adulthood, one’s social convoy significantly decreases due to a loss of friends and family, resulting in a decline in one’s support, protection, and emotional security. According to CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016) the subsequent loneliness and helplessness one feels is likely to damage one’s physical and mental well-being. This is highlighted in the face of social, professional and economic loss that one encounters around this time. Furthermore CITATION Bar09 l 1033 (Newman, 2009) says that older individuals are also likely to deal with the aging of their spouses, which may cause a decrease in companionship, intimacy and marital satisfaction; as well as assuming the role of caregiver without warning or preparation.
Sociocultural, older adults may encounter ageism and a lack of sensitivity and empathy. Due to this generation’s vulnerability, many may experience neglect and abuse CITATION Ala161 l 1033 (Gibson, 2016). This is fueled by the perception that old people are resistant and stubborn. This stigma is even present among medical professionals who display little interest in elderly care. According toCITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016) This may be due to the perception that successful therapy with the elderly is limited due to their physical or psychological degeneration. Consequently, there is an over-reliance on drug therapies to assist the elderly rather than on psychotherapeutic approaches CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016).
According to CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016) When looking at an individual’s life, it is necessary to consider lifecycle because the same event will have different consequences for individuals of different ages. Erikson suggests that middle adulthood presents the crisis of generativity versus stagnation. The former allows for rewarding experiences that imbue meaning and purpose into lifeCITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016). Typically, parenting fulfills this desire because it allows parents to impart their beliefs and knowledge to their children. However, satisfaction and meaning can also be gained through mentoring, fostering or teaching as these, too, provide opportunities to contribute to younger generations CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016). Conversely, stagnation results from the inability to contribute to society and to younger generations, resulting in one becoming bored, unsatisfied and self-indulgent CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016).
According to CITATION Bar09 l 1033 (Newman, 2009) for the elderly, Erikson claimed the crisis is between integrity and despair. Late adulthood encompasses the last chapter of life with all of one’s accumulative memories and experiencesCITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016). Accepting one’s choices and the legacy one will leave behind allows one to age with grace and integrity. This is more easily achieved if one is able to maintain a sense of social and familial belonging and engagement. Regretting one’s choices, carrying resentment and resisting aging has the opposite effect, leaving one feeling incomplete and filled with despairCITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016).
Sources of Stress and Stress Reduction According to CITATION Mil l 1033 (Mills, 2015) Stress may be useful in motivating someone to do their best and reach their optimal performance. This type of stress is called eustress. Stress that is perceived as consuming and beyond one’s coping resources is known as distress, and causes severe damage. According to CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016) Distress has a number of negative consequences like insomnia, flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbing, avoidance and overall anxiety.
These effects manifest distinctly for individuals in middle and late adulthood. “It is in middle age that the effects of both short- and long-term stress become most apparent”CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016) . This is because it is a time of multiple challenges and high responsibility: Parenting of children, caring for aging parents, managing financial demands, ensuring job security, upholding personal and professional relationships, and continuing self-care CITATION Jac13 l 1033 (Jacki Watts, 2013). Being sandwiched between the demands of children and parents, middle-age individuals can experience inexplicable stress, detrimentally affecting their families, careers, finances and identity. However, Erikson declared that a crisis in middle-adulthood could be the impetus behind positive and necessary growth and performance CITATION Bar09 l 1033 (Newman, 2009).
According to CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016)Middle adulthood is also when stress disorders and health challenges begin to surface. Over time, stress can weaken one’s immune system; impair cognition; and make one susceptible to a number of chronic ailments CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016). These health concerns further raise levels of stress because – at middle adulthood – it makes one aware of one’s mortality.
According to CITATION Mil l 1033 (Mills, 2015) changes in appearance that occur at this stage often cause a dip in confidence and an increase in beauty and body self-consciousness. These stresses are heightened in a society that is aesthetically obsessed, applauding youth, beauty and health. This is particularly true for women CITATION Bar09 l 1033 (Newman, 2009). Stress reactions may include shame and resistance to one’s physical appearance as well as withdrawal from sexual intimacy, which further damages one’s quality of life because a healthy sex life is still highly valued by this age group CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016).
According to CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016) for older adults, the primary stressor is health decline. It is therefore understandable that their stress would increase after their useful life expectancy passes. With chronic disease, pain and disability, individuals experience feelings of helplessness. Furthermore, loss of one’s job in the face of financial demands and little social support may cause one to feel professionally obsolete and purposeless. Such experiences may lead to depression and anxiety CITATION Ala161 l 1033 (Gibson, 2016). Another minor source of stress for the elderly is home maintenance, which may serve to remind them of their limited capacity and health degeneration CITATION Ala161 l 1033 (Gibson, 2016).
Despite the above stressors, how one reacts to challenges and stress is also dependent on one’s stress and coping paradigm, which focuses on the transactions between a person and their environment CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016). Informing this perception is one’s ego-resilience, which ascertains the extent to which someone will manage a challenge: Those with high ego-resilience see challenges as opportunities and therefore respond to them more receptively and optimistically. On the contrary, those with low ego-resilience see challenges as overwhelming and beyond their coping resources. Thus, personal perception and resilience contribute to whether one conquers or succumbs to stress CITATION MEL04 l 1033 (Lanchman, 2004).
According to CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016)There are many variables that determine stress reactions. One of these is personality postulated that older adults tend to assume a more docile perspective of life after having encountered multiple losses, which reinforce an external locus of control. However, CITATION MEL04 l 1033 (Lanchman, 2004) found intrapersonal emotion-focused methods of coping to be common in this age group. These methods include acceptance of responsibility and distancing themselves from the issue. They also stated that older people often displayed maturity, wisdom and humor when approaching challenges. The way one reacts is also influenced by one’s marital status, social circles and personal reserves especially in old age CITATION Jac13 l 1033 (Jacki Watts, 2013).
Behavioral Interventions for Stress ReductionsFrom the many techniques and tools out there, individuals need to find what works for their unique contexts and personalities. In doing so, one needs to assess the type of stress being experienced: Is an external situation or problem causing stress or is the source internal, that is, deriving from one’s thoughts, feelings and habitual behaviors CITATION Mil l 1033 (Mills, 2015).
Although stressors change over time, middle and late adults will have developed internal coping strategies and adaptive skills that they have tried and tested to assist them in moderating challenges CITATION Ala161 l 1033 (Gibson, 2016). Moreover, their accumulative knowledge allows them to more quickly and flexibly address issues because they have greater exposure to accessible solutions. However, some individuals may have learnt negative reaction styles that involve emotional dysregulation; and repetitive thought patterns that induce anxiety and fear CITATION Mil l 1033 (Mills, 2015). Without resources to cope with stressors, one can easily succumb to feelings of overwhelm, incompetency, anxiety and exhaustion. Hence the necessity in exploring interventions to deal more effectively with stress.
There are many external interventions to improve coping strategies: Exercising allows for the psychological and emotional release of stress; and this, coupled with a healthy lifestyle, can delay the aging process. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (2008), adults should engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise with strengthening exercises done twice a week. This regime leads to stronger cardiovascular, respiratory and cognitive functioning, lower stress levels; and greater strength, endurance and flexibility CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016).
Common external stressors are over-scheduling, procrastination and failing to be assertive CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016). These can only change through changing behavioral actions. An example specific to older adults can be found in countering memory-loss through adopting memory aids like a diary or imagery. Similarly, in countering loneliness and despair, individuals can seek hobbies, volunteering opportunities, or join clubs for retirees that allow them to pass their time enjoyably, develop a sense of purpose and revive their social engagement CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016).
An effective intervention for treating psychological stress is with psychosocial interventions, ranging from mindfulness and breathing techniques to cognitive-behavioral stress management therapy. These alleviate negative thoughts and moods; and enhance experiences of being socially supported and personally empowered in managing stressors CITATION Mil l 1033 (Mills, 2015).Such interventions draw on internal reserves of resilience and often result in a reduced reliance on medication. The very act of talking and experiencing being listened to enables one to more clearly identify and assess stressors; and increases feelings of self-empowerment CITATION Mil l 1033 (Mills, 2015).
For older adults, traditional psychotherapy may assist them in gaining integrity by viewing one’s life through an accepting, self-affirming and graceful lens. This will drastically reduce stress, allowing one to feel grateful and more accepting of their life CITATION MEL04 l 1033 (Lanchman, 2004). A popular source of comfort especially for the elderly is religion or spirituality. This empowers them in releasing that which they cannot control and focusing on that which they can. Belief in a higher being is often associated with greater well-being and survival CITATION Mil l 1033 (Mills, 2015).
Development through the Biopsychosocial Framework According to CITATION Rob161 l 1033 (Cavanaugh, 2016) Middle-age typically begins at 40 and ends around 65; it centers on themes of generativity and the welfare of others in personal and professional relationships. It is a ‘juxtaposition of peaks and valleys across the social, psychological, and physical domains’ CITATION MEL04 l 1033 (Lanchman, 2004). Some of the peaks are being settled, having life experience, being financially stable and having freedom and independence distinct from younger adulthood. Some of challenges include juggling multiple roles and seeking balance between work, family, personal interests and health needs CITATION MEL04 l 1033 (Lanchman, 2004).
On the other hand, late adulthood is seen as a time of fewer responsibilities, but greater losses associated with health, productivity, society and family CITATION Ala161 l 1033 (Gibson, 2016). These effects are on a biological level, considering genetics and health; a psychological level, assessing perception, cognition, emotion and personality; and a social level, evaluating interpersonal and ethnic factors. Thus, using the biopsychosocial model enables one to view both these stages in the broadest possible picture CITATION Ala12 l 1033 (Quinn, 2012).
ConclusionAfter extensive research, it is likely to state that the dynamics affecting adjustment and adaptation to lifecycle changes are complex. From a biopsychosocial framework, it is evident that one’s biology, psychology, society and culture, and lifecycle influence how one sees and reacts to stress; and how this stress then impacts on one’s health.
References BIBLIOGRAPHY Cavanaugh, R. V. (2016). Human Development: A Life-Span View. USA: CENGAGE Learning.
Gibson, A. G. (2016). Human Growth, Behaviour and Development. California: SAGE.
Jacki Watts, K. C. (2013). Developmental Psychology. South Africa: JUTA.
Lanchman, M. (2004). Developmental in Middle Life. Annual Review of Psychology, 305-331.
Mills, H. R. (2015, December 21). Types of Stressors. Types of Stressors (Eustress vs Distress) in Stress Reduction and Management.
Newman, B. M. (2009). Life-Span Develoment A Psychosocial Approach. Wadsworth: CENGAGE Learning.
Quinn, A. M. (2012). DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY REVISITING THE CLASSIC STUDIES. California: SAGE.