The stresses people experience during their lives can ‘catch up’ on them when they reach old age leading to health problems, new research has found.
University of Bradford lecturer Dr Helena Chui was part of a team involved in a ground-breaking study on the links between depression and stress hormones in the elderly.
It used data from an 18-year period and found that past stress can lead to issues in later life.
The study, which used data gathered from 50 participants with an average age of 89, has just been released and is thought to be the first of its kind to use evidence collected from such a long period.
It considered the effects of stress hormone Cortisol on the very elderly.
Dr Chui, a lecturer at the University’s psychology division, has found a link between depression and reduced amounts of a Cortisol in very old people when they wake up in the morning.
Cortisol is released in response to stress and increases blood sugar levels and suppresses the immune system, helping the body to survive immediate threats, or prepare for the exertion of a new day.
Dr Chui, who is from Hong Kong and studied her PHD at Colorado State University, said: “Stress occurs throughout life, but advanced old age and an approaching end of life often bring frequent and severe physical and social losses that induce a higher level of depressive symptoms.
“This study suggests that stress experienced in the past might accumulate and catch-up on people as they enter old age.”