People in 60s cope better with stress

Washington: People in their 60s are better at coping with stressful situations than their younger counterparts and empathizing with the less fortunate.

A team of researchers led by University of California, Berkeley psychologist Robert Levenson, is tracking how our emotional strategies and responses change as we age.

Their findings support the theory that emotional intelligence and cognitive skills can actually sharpen as we enter our 60s, giving older people an advantage in the workplace and in personal relationships, reports the journal Psychology and Aging.

"Evolution seems to have tuned our nervous systems in ways that are optimal for these kinds of interpersonal and compassionate activities as we age," said Levenson, according to a California statement.

In the first study, researchers looked at how 144 healthy adults in their 20s, 40s and 60s reacted to neutral, sad and disgusting film clips.

Heading up that study was Michelle Shiota, now an assistant professor of psychology at Arizona State University.

The researchers monitored the blood pressure, heart rates, perspiration and breathing patterns of participants as they watched a scene from the movie "21 Grams," in which a mother learns her daughters have died in a car accident.

And from "The Champ," in which a boy watches his mentor die after a boxing match. They also watched repugnant scenes from "Fear Factor".

Older people, it turned out, were the best at reinterpreting negative scenes in positive ways using positive reappraisal, a coping mechanism that draws heavily on life experience and lessons learned.