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Negative life events and age-related decline in mastery: Are older adults more vulnerable to the control-eroding effect of stress?

Publication Abstract

Cairney, J., and Neal Krause. 2008. "Negative life events and age-related decline in mastery: Are older adults more vulnerable to the control-eroding effect of stress?" Journals of Gerontology B: Psychological and Social Sciences, 63(3): S162-S170.

Objectives. The purpose of this study was to see if exposure to life events influences age-related decline in control. Methods. The data came from a large, nationally representative sample of Canadians aged 18 and older (n = 17, 29 1). We examined the principal research question by testing for an interaction between age, life events, and mastery using linear regression, both cross-sectionally and over time. Results. Similar to previous work, there was a nonlinear association between age and mastery. The data suggested that exposure to life events was associated with lower levels of perceived control at any age, but that the impact of stress exposure was stronger in older adults. This effect was also evident for change in mastery over time. Discussion. The findings from this study suggest that exposure to life events is an important, yet overlooked, determinant of age-related decline in control. Loss of personal and social resources may be the reason older adults appear more vulnerable to the negative effects of stress.

Country of focus: Canada.

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