Men who experience persistently moderate or high levels of stressful life events over a number of years have a 50 percent higher mortality rate, according to a new study.
In general, the researchers found only a few protective factors against these higher levels of stress - people who self-reported that they had good health tended to live longer and married men also fared better.
Moderate drinkers also lived longer than non-drinkers.
"Being a teetotaler and a smoker were risk factors for mortality," said Carolyn Aldwin, lead author of the study and a professor of human development and family sciences at Oregon State University.
"So perhaps trying to keep your major stress events to a minimum, being married and having a glass of wine every night is the secret to a long life," Aldwin added.
This is the first study to show a direct link between stress trajectories and mortality in an aging population.
Aldwin said that previous studies examined stress only at one time point, while this study documented patterns of stress over a number of years.
The study used longitudinal data surveying almost 1,000 middle-class and working-class men for an 18-year period, from 1985 to 2003.
Those in the low-stress group experienced an average of two or fewer major life events in a year, compared with an average of three for the moderate group and up to six for the high stress group.
One of the study's most surprising findings was that the mortality risk was similar for the moderate versus high stress group.
"It seems there is a threshold and perhaps with anything more than two major life events a year and people just max out," Aldwin added.
The study has been published in the Journal of Aging Research.