Eadaoin’s research is designed to respond to the question of how daily experiences shape adolescent psychobiological health and has two primary aims: 1) to examine how psychobiological responses to daily experiences in adolescence contribute to physical health 2) to determine what supports are useful in ameliorating ’negative’ consequences of psychobiological responses to stress and increasing the psychobiological benefits of positive experiences.
Increasing numbers of adolescents across the globe are reporting poor mental health and concurrently, there is a rising prevalence of poor physical health of adolescents. Previous research on adult health has identified how daily experience shapes physical and mental health, but the emotional and biological response to daily experiences in adolescence is under-researched. Adolescents report stronger emotional responses to the challenges and uplifts of daily life, and these responses can manifest themselves as changes in health.
Both positive and negative experiences affect health however the effect of positive experiences on adolescent health is yet to be fully described. Previous research indicates that the heightened sensitivity and emotional responsivity in adolescence creates a window of time where psychobiological responses to experiences are amplified. This may increase the effects of experiences and emotions on health, in measurable and meaningful ways. These ways can be measured through biological changes(e.g. increases in stress hormones), as well as through behavioural changes (e.g. exercise, sleep and diet), or in social engagement. Psychobiological responses to experiences contribute an accumulation of costs and benefits to health – a process known as allostatic load.
This project examines daily experiences of adolescents and using the allostatic load theory, the project examines how emotional experiences are transformed into health outcomes, and scrutinises the unique contribution of both daily stressors and daily uplifts. Biological measures are being used to capture individual health profiles, and used with measures of health behaviours (e.g. diet, exercise, sleep) and adolescent diary-reports of daily experience to examine the impact of experiences on health. Based on these findings, an intervention will be developed and tested to buffer the effects of negative experience and amplify the effects of positive experiences. The findings will create new opportunities to promote healthful responses to experiences in adolescence. The study has completed data collection.