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date: 04 July 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Stressors have adverse effects on physical and mental health across the life span, and the accumulation of stressors is particularly damaging. Sociologists argue that the failure of prior research to account for a broad range of social stressors has underestimated the contributions of stress exposure to health behaviors and health status and to socioeconomic and racial/ethnic health inequities. The Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study provides an unparalleled opportunity for studying the health consequences of stressor accumulation. The topic of cumulative stress is introduced, and challenges in operationalizing this construct are described. Examples of studies from MIDUS are highlighted that have considered multiple social stressors simultaneously, the interaction between daily and chronic stressors, genetic contributions to the effects of stressor on health, and accumulation of stressors at multiple points in the life course. Drawing on principles and models from life course epidemiology and developmental science, future research directions are discussed.

Keywords: MIDUS, cumulative stress, social stressors, health behaviors, preclinical health risk factors, health outcomes, health, life course epidemiology, developmental science

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