Given the importance of stress for psychological and physical health, researchers have devoted considerable
attention to understanding factors that influence it. Some scholars argue that stress reactivity depends mostly on the
person (i.e. personality), while others contend that stress reactivity depends mostly on the stressor itself (i.e. its severity).
Others still assert that stress emerges from idiosyncratic interactions between the person and the stressors they face. To
reconcile these perspectives, I will leverage crossed random effect modelling to build an integrative theoretical and
empirical model that conceptualizes stress reactivity as a function of each of the aforementioned factors; the person, the
stressors, and the idiosyncratic interaction between person and stressor. Perhaps more importantly, I will specify whether
the importance of each factor changes as people grow older. Given that stress-reduction interventions are informed by
basic stress science, establishing an integrative framework to reconcile prior scholarship would provide a valuable
roadmap for identifying age-appropriate interventions.
The F99 phase of this grant will operationalize stress reactivity as psychological distress resulting from daily
stressors. The first study will be a 3-week daily diary study that maximizes internal validity and statistical reliability by
recruiting a sample of undergraduate students. The second study maximize generalizability by leveraging existing data
from the NIA-funded Midlife in the US study. Both studies are of a crossed random effects study design, which will
enable me to conduct variance decompositions on psychological stress reactivity (Specific Aim 1).
The K00 phase of this grant will 1) replicate the variance decomposition on psychological stress reactivity from
the F99 phase, 2) expand these findings to the domain of physiological stress reactivity, and 3) investigate whether the
decomposition of stress reactivity varies as a function of adult age. In a large-scale psychophysiological study, adults 18-
75 will engage in three laboratory tasks while their stress reactivity is measured psychologically via self-report and
physiologically via cardiovascular measures (electrocardiography, impedance cardiography, and continuous blood
pressure). This will allow me to correlate the variance components (importance of a factor) with age (Specific Aim 2).
Together, this research will leverage innovative statistical methods to reveal the relative importance of the person,
the stressor, and the person by stressor interaction in stress reactivity across the lifespan. Such findings will reconcile
existing research on stress and aging, thereby laying the foundation for optimal stress-reduction interventions.