David M. Almeida 

photo of David Almeida

Professor of Human Development and Family Studies

Contact Information

403 BBH Building
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park PA 16802


(fax) 814-863-9423


Research Interests

I am a life-span developmental psychologist with a primary focus on stress and coping during middle adulthood. My research interests center on the general question of how daily experiences within the family and other social contexts, such as work and leisure, influence individual health and well-being. In contrast to research on major life events such as marital disruption and job loss, I am interested in the health effects of everyday stressors and fulfillments such as work deadlines and family interactions. One theme of this enterprise examines the ways that daily experiences affect individuals. I believe that minor daily stressors exert their influence not only through separate direct effects on emotional and physical functioning but also by accumulating over time and across different contexts to create persistent irritations and frustrations that result in more serious stress reactions such as anxiety and depression. A second general theme of my research addresses how sociodemographic and individual factors influence exposure to daily experiences. Central to this idea is that daily stressors do not occur randomly and that the emotional and physical concomitants of experiencing stressors are not simply a matter of chance or bad luck. Sociodemographic factors such as income and social networks play a part in creating the types of daily environments and thus the experiences that individuals are likely to face. Individual factors, such as genetic endowment, personality, role commitments, and personal goals, direct people in their selection of and efficacy in daily activities. The third theme considers individual differences in emotional and physical reactivity to daily experiences. For example, some people become very distressed when they are faced with increased work responsibilities and demands, whereas others do not. In my research, I am beginning to explore how structural and individual factors in concert relate to this differential reactivity.

My current research efforts are directed toward the National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE). I am the Principal Investigator of this project and have received grants and contracts from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Aging, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to carry out the data collection and analysis of this project. The NSDE is one of the in-depth studies that are part of the MacArthur Foundation National Survey of Midlife in the United States (MIDUS). The purpose of the NSDE is to examine the day-to-day lives, in particular the daily stressful experiences, of a subsample of 1484 MIDUS respondents who completed short telephone interviews on each of eight consecutive nights. Thus, the data set is comprised of 10,389 daily interviews. Although previous daily diary research has advanced our understanding of daily stress processes, there are important limitations to these prior studies that are being addressed in the NSDE. First, previous studies in this area relied on small and often unrepresentative samples that limit the generalizability of findings. For this reason, the NSDE uses a large national sample of adults in the United States. Second, previous studies of individual differences in exposure and reactivity to daily stressors have typically examined only one source of variability, such as neuroticism, to the exclusion of others. The NSDE corrects this problem by utilizing the data collected in the larger MacArthur baseline survey on a wide array of personality variables in combination with the sociodemographic characteristics of respondents to study the determinants of exposure and reactivity to daily stressors. Third, previous studies typically have relied on self-administered checklists of daily stressors that only assess the occurrence of stressors. The NSDE uses a semi-structured telephone interview instrument that measures quantitative (e.g., frequency) and qualitative (e.g., type, severity) aspects of daily stressors. Fourth, previous studies have failed to investigate the role of genetics in both exposure and reactivity to daily stressors. The NSDE has a subsample of 242 identical and fraternal same-sex twin pairs to explore how genes and environment interact to determine how individuals adapt to day-to-day stressful experiences.

The NSDE recently was funded by National Institute on Aging to collect an additional wave of data that includes biomarkers of health. This grant is part of a Program Project Grant on Integrative Pathways to Health during Adulthood comprised of myself and four other project leaders: Carol Ryff, Burton Singer, Margie Lachman, and Richard Davidson. Working with this interdisciplinary team of researchers, we will investigate how cumulative exposure and reactivity to daily stressors predict changes in global health reports (e.g., chronic conditions, functional impairment) and correlate with biomarkers of health. Specific indicators include both an overall allostatic load measure, discrete measures of immune markers, and daily cortisol assessments. In addition, the allostatic load measures include a series of laboratory challenge studies that assess recovery functions in biomarkers from cognitive challenges. Thus, for example, we can examine whether those who have a greater proportion of interpersonal stressors will have a higher allostatic load compared to those with a lower proportion of interpersonal stressors. We also will examine how daily stressors, as measured in NSDE correlate with measures of emotional circuitry and brain via prefrontal activation asymmetry and emotion-modulated startle during and following the offset of positive and negative emotional challenges. We predict that those who have greater exposure and, more importantly, greater reactivity to daily stressors will have slower recovery following negative challenges. Furthermore, the combination of the MIDUS survey data, daily stress processes, and biological indicators allows us to examine individual differences in the influence of daily stressors on allostatic load and brain functioning.

I am beginning to explore the theme of daily stress and health in other projects. My HDFS colleague, Nan Crouter, and I are assessing daily experiences and health in a sample of Hotel Workers, Managers and their spouses. This project recently was chosen by NICHD to be part of a research Network on Work-Family policy and Health. I am also a Co-Investigator of the recent follow-up to the Normative Aging Study (NAS) with Dan Mroczek, Purdue University, and Ron Spiro, Veterans Administration. The NAS is a longitudinal study of armed forces veterans from the Boston Veterans Administration started in 1961 to study the psychosocial predictors of health. In our current project, we are assessing trajectories of health and personality over a 30-year time frame. In addition we have added a daily diary protocol to link more macro trajectories of health to intraindividual variation in daily well-being. I am also a Co-Investigator of a National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases project to study the effects of daily stress and depressed mood on daily management of Type II diabetes with Lawrence Fisher, University of California, San Francisco. In this project, individuals with diabetes will complete daily telephone interviews every day over 21 days to help determine how stressor and mood predict glucose functioning directly and indirectly via daily health behaviors.


B.A., 1987, Psychology, California State University, Northridge
M.A., 1990, Psychology, University of Victoria
Ph.D., 1993, Psychology, University of Victoria


1999: Teaching Award of Merit, National Association of Colleges of Agriculture, College of Agriculture, University of Arizona.

1996: Outstanding Alumni Award, California State University, Northridge

1994: MacArthur Foundation Research Network Affiliate

Current Research Projects

Work, Family, & Health Network. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute on Aging, Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (Co-Principal Investigator).

Changes in Daily Stress During Adulthood National Institute on Aging. National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, 2003-2008, (Principal Investigator).

Personality, Health and Well-being Trajectories in Adulthood. National Institute on Aging with dual sponsorship by the National Institute of Mental Health. National Institutes of Health, 2005-2010, (Co-Investigator).

Daily Stress and Well Being among African Americans. Center for Population Health and Aging, (Principal Investigator).

Adults and Adolescents with Autism: A Study of Family Caregiving. National Institute on Aging, (Co-Investigator).

Work, Stress, Health and Parenting among Hotel Employees. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2005-2008 (Co-Principal Investigator).

Daily Depressive Affect & Disease Management in Diabetes. National Institute on Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, 2003-2007, (Investigator).

Hotel Work and Well-Being: The Penn State Hotel Managers Initiative. Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, 2005-2008, (Co-Investigator).

Professional Experience

2007-present: Professor, Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University.

2004 - 2007: Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies, The Pennsylvania State University.

2003 - Visiting Scholar, Institute on Education, University of London, United Kingdom

2002-2003: Visiting Scholar, Institute on Aging, University of Wisconsin, Madison

2000 - 2003: Associate Professor, Division of Family Studies and Human Development, School of Family and Consumer Resources, University of Arizona.

1996 - 2000: Assistant Professor, Division of Family Studies and Human Development, School of Family and Consumer Resources, University of Arizona.

1993-1996: Postdoctoral Fellow, NIMH Miltisite Family Research Consortium, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan.

Selected Publications

Almeida, D. M., Davis, K. D., & Crouter, A. C.(in press) Translational research on work and family: Daily stress processes in hotel employees and their families. In Improving the state of Americans: Translational research in the social and behavioral sciences. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Almeida, D. M., Piazza, J. R. Stawski, R. S. , & Kline, L. C. (in press) The Speedometer of Life:  Stress, Health and Aging. In K.W. Schaie & R. Levey.  The Handbook of the psychology of aging. Elsevier, NewYork

Piazza, J. R,  Almeida, D. M., Dimitreva, N. & Klein, L. C. (2010). Frontiers in the use of biomarkers in research on stress and aging. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences. 65, 513-25

Almeida, D. M., & Wong, J. D. (2009). Life transitions and daily stress rocesses. In G. H., Elder, Jr., & J. Z. Giele (Eds.), The craft of life course research (pp. 41-162). New York: Guilford Press.

Almeida, D. M., Piazza, J. R., & Stawski, R. S. (2009). Inter-individual differences and intra-individual variability in the cortisol awakening response: An examination of age and gender. Psychology and Aging, 24, 819-827.

Almeida, D. M. McGonagle, K., & King, H. (2009). Assessing daily stress processes in social surveys by combining stressor exposure and salivary cortisol. Biodemography and Social Biology, 55, 220-238.

Sliwinski, M. J., Almeida, D. M., Smyth, J., & Stawski, R. S. (2009). Intraindividual change and variability in daily stress processes: Findings from two measurement-burst diary studies. Psychology and Aging, 24, 828-840.

Charles, S. T., & Almeida, D. M. (2007). Genetic and environmental effects on daily life stressors: More evidence for greater variation in later life. Psychology and Aging, 22(2), 331-340.

Almeida, D.M., Neupert , S.D. , Banks, S.R., & Serido, J. (2005). Do daily stress processes account for socioeconomic health disparities? Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences .

Almeida, D.M. (2005). Resilience and vulnerability to daily stressors assessed via diary methods. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14 , 64-68.

Center Affiliations

  • Center for Healthy Aging

Strategic Themes

  • Human Development
  • Contexts and Social Institutions