Daily emotional and physical reactivity to stressors among widowed and married older adults

Elizabeth A. Hahn, Kelly E. Cichy, Brent J. Small, David M. Almeida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Objectives. Widowhood may result in declines in health and potentially stressful changes to daily routines. However, little research has examined how daily stressors contribute to physical and emotional well-being in widowhood. The objectives of the current study were to examine daily stressor exposure and reactivity in widowed versus married older adults. Method. Participants included all 100 widowed and 342 married adults aged 65 and older from the National Study of Daily Experiences, a daily diary study from the second wave of the Midlife in the United States. Daily stressors were measured using the Daily Inventory of Stressful Events; multilevel modeling assessed daily reactivity to stressors using daily negative affect (emotional reactivity) and daily physical symptoms (physical reactivity) as outcomes. Results. Married participants reported more stressors in general, and specifically more interpersonal stressors (e.g., arguments). Both married and widowed participants were reactive to daily stressors. Married participants were physically and emotionally reactive to interpersonal stressors. Widowed participants were more physically reactive to home-related stressors. Discussion. Attention to the types of daily stressors that widowed older adults experience in daily life and the potential physical effects of daily stressors during widowhood may help to alleviate some of the physical distress that widowed older adults may experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-28
Number of pages10
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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