Stress Really Can Make Young Adults Feel Older
Source: North Carolina State University
Summary: Researchers have found that stress can play a significant role in how old emerging adults feel, with every stressful event above the daily norm making many young people feel at least one year older.
Emerging adults are at an age where they are no longer kids, but they haven’t settled into their adulthood yet. Psychology researchers from the North Carolina State University have found that stress can play a significant role in how old emerging adults feel, with every stressful event above the daily norm making many young people feel at least one year older. For the study, researchers tracked 53 men and 53 women between the ages of 18 and 22 years old. Every day for eight days study participants filled out a survey that tracked stressful events and asked questions regarding their subjective age. Participants also completed a questionnaire designed to capture the extent to which they felt they were still in the process of determining who they would be as adults which is often viewed as a defining characteristic of emerging adulthood. The study findings were published in the journal Emerging Adulthood.
The researchers found that 58% of study participants reported fluctuating senses of age, reporting that they felt at least two of the three options (older, younger, or their real age) at different points during the study. The response to stress was particularly pronounced for study participants who were “identity explorers,” meaning those who were embracing their emerging adulthood as an opportunity to explore who they wanted to be. Participants at the opposite end of the spectrum – those with a fixed identity – reported little or no impact on subjective age in response to stress. Identity explorers who experienced five additional stressors on a given day reported feeling 11 years older, whereas those with a fixed identity displayed no change at all.
Assoc. Prof. Shevaun Neupert said, “We know that children often report feeling older than they actually are, “and that adults often report feeling younger. This work helps us understand the role that emerging adulthood plays as a crossover period from one to the other – as well as the importance of stress in influencing fluctuations during that transition.”
More Information: Jennifer A. Bellingtier et al, “Daily Subjective Age in Emerging Adults”, Emerging Adulthood (2018). DOI: 10.1177/2167696818785081