Researchers find big downside to living a stress-free life

It's no secret that stress can have a negative impact on your life, causing everything from insomnia and anxiety to more chronic health matters. Those who live a generally stress-free life report a sense of well-being and are less likely to experience certain chronic health conditions. However, a new study from Penn State has found a big downside to living entirely without stress.

Stress comes in many forms, and while big stressors aren't good for your health, the new study suggests that exposure to small stressors daily may help protect one's cognition in the long term. The findings are based on data from 2,711 study participants.

Using data from a short cognition test, as well as information on everything from daily activities to mood and physical symptoms of chronic conditions, the study found that living a stress-free life may increase one's odds of experiencing lower cognitive function.

Though participants who lived stress-free lives were more likely to have better moods and fewer chronic health problems, they also were linked to lower cognition equivalent to more than eight years of aging, according to the study. The researchers point out that stress comes in the form of challenges, and these challenges may have some cognitive benefit.

Penn State professor David M. Almeida explained:

It's possible that experiencing stressors creates opportunities for you to solve a problem, for example, maybe fixing your computer that has suddenly broken down before an important Zoom meeting. So experiencing these stressors may not be pleasant but they may force you to solve a problem, and this might actually be good for cognitive functioning, especially as we grow older.