September 2019

Holding On to Stress Raises Risk for Health Problems a Decade Later

Stress happens. But how you cope with it may impact your health in the long run.

Man sitting and talking to healthcare professional.

According to new research, people who still feel negative emotions days after a stressful experience are more likely to suffer from health problems 10 years later. The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science.

Lingering emotions after stress put health on the line years later

For the study, more than 1,000 U.S. adults completed a survey over 8 days in which they reported how often they experienced daily stressors. They also reported how often they felt negative emotions such as nervousness, hopelessness, loneliness, fear, irritability, or anger. Ten years later, researchers surveyed participants about whether they had any major illnesses or physical limitations.

People whose negative emotions lingered in the days after a stressful event were more likely to suffer from illnesses or functional limitations a decade later, researchers found. Why? Dwelling on a stressful experience activates the body’s stress response. Over time, that can take a toll on your health and put you at risk for disease.

Eating well, exercising, and expressing emotions are healthier ways to cope

Finding healthy ways to cope with stress is key for protecting your well-being. Some ways you can do that include:

  • Eating healthy, well-balanced meals

  • Staying physically active. For example, go for a walk or bike ride.

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Talking about your feelings with others, such as a friend, counselor, or doctor

  • Not using alcohol or drugs


Let go of stress

You'll find more ways to better manage stress and safeguard your health at the American Heart Association.

Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2018
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