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Middle adulthood is a 20th century phenomenon in Western culture.

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Introduction

Middle adulthood is a 20th century phenomenon in Western culture. In 1900, the average life expectancy was 47 years, but now life expectancy has increased- people are living longer and more professionals are studying life during this age period. Between the ages of 35-64, there are vast changes in many areas of their lives. Stress is anything that causes a change in your body. The most obvious changes related to lifestyle in middle-adulthood include: physical development and health, marital status, family, career and finances and self-concept. Stress is a natural part of living, but too much stress can cause illness and increase the risk of death. In order to maintain a proper level of stress, adults must rely more on knowledge and insight to enhance overall health, well-being and longevity, as well as learning to come to grips with developmental challenges and transitions, to avoid having a stressful life. This can be achieved by learning what stress is, its causes and effects, and solutions of how one can be relieved of it. Stress plays a role in many of the diseases of middle adulthood; it has been identified as being associated with cardiovascular disease, reduced immunological resistance to diseases and psychosomatic distress, to name a few. In 1936, Hans Selye, the father of stress research, defined stress as the body's response to any demand placed on it. He discovered the General Adaptation Syndrome, which consists of three stages: the alarm, the resistance, and exhaustion. The alarm stage is the first immediate reaction to a stressor. But this initial response can decrease the effectiveness of the immune system, making persons more susceptible to illness during this phase. The second phase, stage of resistance, is if the stress continues, the body adapts to the stressors. Changes at many levels take place in order to reduce the effect of the stressor. The stage of exhaustion is the last stage, where the body's resistance to the stress may gradually be reduced. ...read more.

Middle

Men's decrease in sexual potency is not the result of hormone changes, but rather the slowing down of the central system. For women, during menopause, their hormone levels decline, less estrogen is produced and the reproductive system shuts down. A lack of understanding of menopause coupled with fears of growing old can account for the negative feelings about menopause. More knowledge and social support at this time in a woman's life is very important in reducing negative feelings and stress. The impairments attributed to these changes will decrease, when one gains a better understanding of how hormone balances change and how the different changes interact with each other. Another lifestyle factor that appears to affect health is internally generated stress which can stem from issues in marital status, family relationships, and career and finances. One of the main difficulties that couples face revolves around expectations. Each person in the relationship brings a set of explicit, implicit and unrealistic expectations. These expectations, when in conflict with the other person's expectations, can create a great a deal of stress. During middle age, husbands and wives often reappraise their marriage. The midlife transition is a "period during which people seriously reevaluate their lives up to that time, which often causes a person to examine current relationships and consider changes for the future" (Dacey, 2002, p. 431). Many times, in effect couples get divorced. Because of more liberal divorce laws like the no fault divorce, "more people are inclined to begin and follow through with the process of getting a divorce if they are unhappy in their marriage" (Group 5, Divorce, 4/29/2002). Although there are many different stressors that cause divorce and separation, such as differences "in interpersonal factors, lack of communication and trust, and low family income" (Group 5), researchers believe married couples are healthier than single or divorced couples. They tend to have fewer chronic conditions and disabilities, and increased satisfaction and happiness in the workplace. ...read more.

Conclusion

If individuals have not reached their goals by this time, many adjust their level of aspirations or get new careers; but in opposite cases, many are unable to recognize they have unrealistic aspirations and desires, which leads to stress from frustration and suffering. Middle age adults in Erikson's generativity stage are productive and useful to society, and produce something of lasting value for future generations. But those in mid-career crisis realize that the time left to make such a contribution is limited, causing feelings of anxiety and resentment. They feel that it is impossible to keep-up-to-date with the modern techniques that a younger person may know more about and feel resentful of younger employees since they still have a chance to progress. Stagnation produces adults who are selfish and live to satisfy only their own needs, and those who do not want to establish a sense of commitment to the future. This stressor can cause psychosomatic symptoms like indigestion and extreme tiredness. To deal with stress from poor self-concept, middle age workers can help younger employees make significant contributions, and become their mentor. Companies are also taking responsibility for continuing education for employees, and laws are made prohibiting age discrimination in employment. A sense of well being is a comfort level with one's physical and emotional health status. It implies a sense of being in control, to make decisions and appropriate planning and management. To maintain a balanced level of stress, one can learn solutions to managing everyday stressors. Managing stress requires a personal, self-assuring, pro-active commitment in order to effectively create a healthier lifestyle, and the experience of well-being. Physical and biological changes, marriage status, family relationships, career and finance, and self-concept are not the only causes of stress. There is a variety of stressors, good and bad; how one reacts to it is important. Success depends on adaptation to, or the anticipation of change. It is essential to welcome change, in order to avoid intense stress and be able to exploit the new niches opening up on a constant basis. ...read more.

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