Psychological distress has been associated with a number of aversive conditions, including headaches, upset stomach, back pain, insomnia, changes in blood sugar, and cardiovascular disease.
Research published in the scientific journal Psychology and Aging in 2010 has identified three factors that influence one’s sensitivity to daily stressors.
These three factors are age, perception of control, and self-concept differentiation.
Perception of control refers to beliefs regarding one’s ability to control the outcome of a situation.
Self-concept differentiation, which is often abbreviated as SCD, “reflects the extent to which individuals see themselves differently across different roles and domains of life.”
For example, someone with a high degree of self-concept differentiation would perceive their personality as being much different at work than at home. Someone with a low degree of self-concept differentiation, on the other hand, would perceive their personality as being relatively the same, regardless of their social role.
The study, which was authored by Elizabeth L. Hay and Manfred Diehl of Colorado State University, investigated the influence of age, perceptions of control, and self-concept differentiation on 239 participant’s reactivity to daily stressors.
The participants in this study first completed a questionnaire to assess their level of self-concept differentiation and were then interviewed over the phone for 30 consecutive days. The telephone interviews were used to measure the amount of stressors that the participants had experienced during the day.
In addition to completing the telephone interview, the participants also recorded their perceptions of control, reported psychological distress, and reported physical symptoms, such as backaches and nausea, in a daily diary.
The study found that being young was associated with increased sensitivity to stress and was also slightly associated with feeling less in control.