No one is immune to stress -- and science shows that how we react to it matters, too. A bevy of research has come out in the past year alone, illustrating how our dealings with stress -- whether it's how long we ruminate over a problem, or how exactly we react to a stressful event -- can affect our health. And not only that, new studies are also coming out showing the effect stress has on our physical health. To properly grab stress by the horns, we must first understand it, so here is a list of 11 things we learned about stress in 2016.
1) Work Stress Is Bad For Your Body
A Lancet review of studies from last September identified a potential risk of too much work stress -- an increased likelihood of suffering a heart attack. The review, conducted by researchers at University College London, shows an association between having a straining job and a 23 percent higher risk of heart attack. Plus, another study published last year in the Journal of Occupational Medicine showed that work stress could also take a toll on women's health particularly by raising their diabetes risk. And another study in the journal PLoS ONE found job stress could actually accelerate aging, as the researchers found an association between work stress and shortened telomeres(sections of our DNA which are linked with longevity).
2) Smiling Is An Antidote To Stress
A real, true, genuine smile could help to lower your heart rate after a stressful event, according to a study in the journal Psychological Science. "The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress, you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment," study researcher Sarah Pressman, of the University of Kansas, said in a statement. "Not only will it help you 'grin and bear it' psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well!"
3) How You Handle Stress Matters
It's not just the stress itself, but the dwelling on it that could have health risks, according to a small study from Ohio University researchers. Those researchers found that when a person is asked to think about a stressful event, their levels of C-reactive protein (which rise in response to inflammation) go up. Similarly, a study in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that perceptions of stress also affect health. Specifically, Columbia University Medical Center researchers found that people who believe that they are stressed have a higher heart disease risk (and heart disease death risk!). And a study in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine shows that people's reactions to stress could have a major impact on their health in the future. That research showed that people who were anxious and stressed about everyday life were more likely to develop heart problems, arthritis, and other chronic conditions a decade later.
4) Chronic Stress Could Raise Men's Diabetes Risk
Experiencing a state of permanent stress is associated with a higher risk of diabetes in men, according to a study in the journal Diabetic Medicine. Researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg found the association with permanent stress at home or work, versus periodic stress or no stress at all.
5) Millenials Are The Most Stressed
Millennials have it the worst when it comes to stress, according to a sweeping survey from the American Psychological Association. The survey showed that people between ages 18 and 33 experience a 5.4, on average, on a 10-point stress scale. The national average, meanwhile, is 4.9. The biggest causes of millennial stress? Job stability and work issues, according to the survey.
6) Mindfulness Meditation Is Key
A study from the University of California, Davis, shows just how big of an impact mindfulness meditation training -- learning how to focus on being in the present -- has on levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. The findings are published in the journal Health Psychology. Similarly, a study in the journal Stress and Health showed that art therapy and mindfulness meditation could help decrease stress among people with breast cancer, a group for whom stress is especially dangerous, as it can affect survival rates.
7) Stress Plays A Role In Drug Relapse
Brown University scientists got a better understanding of stress-induced drug relapse, as explained in a study in mice published this year in the journal Neuron. Researchers found that it's possible to block a step that leads to stress-induced drug relapse, by identifying where exactly it is in the brain that this relapse occurs.
8) We Now Know Why Stress Is Unhealthy
Stress may be the harbinger of so many health issues because of its effects on inflammation, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that long-term stress seemed to impair ability to regulate inflammation, which in turn could raise a person's risk of catching a cold.
9) Stress Could Affect Pregnancy Outcomes
Severe stress could affect the outcome of a pregnancy, an American Journal of Epidemiology study suggests. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health found that stillbirth risk is 2.5 times higher for women with major stressful life events, than women who experience less stress. However, researchers emphasized that the overall stillbirth risk is still relatively small. Rather, the findings should just prompt doctors to "be aware of what's going on in their lives and that they try to get as much support as they can to diminish the stressor and help deal with it," study researcher Marian Willinger told HuffPost's Catherine Pearson.
10) Foolproof De-Stresser: Bring Fido To Work
Research published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management showed that bringing your dog to work can boost employee satisfaction and lower stress levels. But "of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace,” study researcher Randolph T. Barker, of Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a statement.
11) Secondhand Stress
It’s possible to infect others with stress! A 2011 University of Hawaii study found that stress is as contagious as the common cold. Get tips for reducing stress in your life. Plus, E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork tests the Shakti Mat: A plastic bed of acupressure points meant to help release tension and induce a state of deep relaxation.