• women’s health;
  • stressors;
  • personality traits;
  • psychoneuroimmunology (PNI);
  • interactive health model;
  • illness symptoms

Women’s ‘inner-balance’: a comparison of stressors, personality traits and health problems by age groups

The purposes of this descriptive study were to identify differences in women’s stressors, personality mediating traits and symptoms of health problems by age groups, and to guide revisions for development of a shorter, reliable questionnaire to measure women’s health and risks for stress-related illnesses. A convenience sample of 299 women aged between 18 and 66 years who resided in the south-western United States and could read English completed a lengthy questionnaire. ANOVAs were used to compare women by three age groups. Young women (18–29 years) reported high stressors, less healthy personality traits, and significantly more physical and emotional symptoms of health problems than middle-age and older women. Middle-age women (30–45 years) had significantly more stressors than other women, but their healthy personality traits may have contributed to fewer health problems. Older women (46–66 years) had the fewest stressors, highest healthy personality traits, and fewest symptoms of problems compared to other age groups. In their roles and relationships as wives, mothers and employees, women experienced multiple stressors such as inadequate physical and emotional support from their spouse/partner, along with parenting and employee difficulties that contributed to their health problems. Young and middle-aged women were more stressed, juggling the multiple responsibilities and demands of their spouse, children, ageing parents, and their occupation, while trying to maintain their own ‘inner balance’.