Negative emotions in response to daily stress take a toll on long-term mental health

Our emotional responses to the stresses of daily life may predict our long-term mental health, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Psychological scientist Susan Charles of the University of California, Irvine and colleagues conducted the study in order to answer a long-standing question: Do daily add up to make the straw that breaks the camel's back, or do these experiences make us stronger and provide an inoculation against later distress?

Using data from two national surveys, the researchers examined the relationship between daily and mental health outcomes ten years later.

Participants' overall levels of negative emotions predicted psychological distress (e.g., feeling worthless, hopeless, nervous, and/or restless) and diagnosis of an emotional disorder like anxiety or depression a full decade after the emotions were initially measured.

Participants' negative to daily stressors—such as argument or a problem at work or home—predicted and self-reported emotional disorder ten years later.

The researchers argue that a key strength of the study was their ability to tap a large, national community sample of participants who spanned a wide age range. The results were based on data from 711 participants, both men and women, who ranged in age from 25 to 74. They were all participants in two national, longitudinal survey studies: Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) and National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE).

According to Charles and her colleagues, these findings show that mental health outcomes aren't only affected by major life events—they also bear the impact of seemingly minor emotional experiences. The study suggests that chronic nature of these negative emotions in response to daily stressors can take a toll on long-term mental health.

Related Stories

Accepting negative feelings provides emotional relief

Feb 23, 2012

Many adults suffer from mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety symptoms. This puts them at increased risk of developing a mental disorder. Proactive intervention by the mental health services is therefore crucial if we ...

Recommended for you

Some people may be pre-wired to be bilingual

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Some people's brains seem pre-wired to acquire a second language, new research suggests. But anyone who tries to move beyond their mother tongue will likely gain a brain boost, the small study ...

Elderly brains learn, but maybe too much

11 hours ago

A new study led by Brown University reports that older learners retained the mental flexibility needed to learn a visual perception task but were not as good as younger people at filtering out irrelevant ...

Inpatient psychotherapy is effective in Germany

13 hours ago

Sarah Liebherz (Department of Medical Psychology, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf) and Sven Rabung (Institute of Psychology, Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt) have examined 59 studies conducted between 1977 ...

A game changer to boost literacy and maths skills

15 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Finding the best way to teach reading has been an ongoing challenge for decades, especially for those children in underprivileged areas who fail to learn to read. What is the magic ingredient that will ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.