Stress-free life is less developed cognitive functions?

Stress-free life is less developed cognitive functions?

People who "enjoy" the so-called stress-free life, may develop less cognitive functions, such as perception, memory and thinking, researchers from the American University of Pennsylvania found.

Stress is known to most people as the body's reaction to various experiences and events, most often unpleasant ones. It can mobilize or discourage further action. Prolonged or severe stress can be fatal for human health and the functioning of the body. As it turns out, the lack of stress is also not entirely beneficial. 

Already several years ago, scientists confirmed the intuitive dependence, according to which people who do not experience stress in life report better well-being and are accompanied by fewer chronic diseases. Now it turns out that, in addition to benefits, stress-free life has its drawbacks: these people also have less developed cognitive processes - used to get to know reality, gain orientation in the environment, absorb knowledge about the surrounding world and process this information.

To find out how a stress-free life affects people's functioning, scientists conducted a study. To this end, they recruited 2,711 people who underwent a short cognitive test before starting the experiment. They were then interviewed each evening for eight consecutive nights, answering questions about their mood, chronic disease, and physical symptoms such as headaches, coughs or sore throats. Additionally, they told about what they did every day.

Over the course of the study, participants also reported the number of stressors, such as misunderstandings with friends, family, or problems at work, and the number of positive experiences, such as spending time happily together at home or at work.

Among the analyzed data, scientists noticed dependencies that could be used as a confirmation of previous research - people who did not report any stressful situations, less often suffered from chronic diseases and had a better mood during the day. It also turned out that they fared worse in cognitive tests. The difference in the results corresponded to eight years of life experience. This means that people who "enjoy" a stress-free life are about 8 years younger with experience in coping with various life situations than people who experience unpleasant situations. Additionally, the "stress-free" ones were less likely to report giving or receiving emotional support and less likely to experience positive situations during the day.

"Our research shows that everyday stressors, while unpleasant, can have benefits for human development," notes one of the study's authors, David M. Almeida, professor at the University of Pennsylvania. - "Encountering difficulties creates an opportunity to solve them. Thus, experiencing these stressors may not be pleasant, but may force us to look for a solution to the problem, and such action may be good for our cognitive functioning" - the researcher explains.

According to the authors of the study, these findings suggest that it is not about avoiding stress, but about responding to it. "Stressors are events that create challenges in our lives, and experiencing them is part of it. What is important is how you react - being nervous and worried is more unhealthy than the number of stressors you encounter," concludes Almeida.

More - on the publication's website ( https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Femo0000958 ) (PAP)

Agnieszka Niewińska - Lewicka