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

April 2, 2013, Association for Psychological Science

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.

Explore further: Angry? Sad? Ashamed? Depressed people can't tell difference, study finds

Related Stories

Angry? Sad? Ashamed? Depressed people can't tell difference, study finds

October 10, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Clinically depressed people have a hard time telling the difference between negative emotions such as anger and guilt, a new University of Michigan study found.

Study suggests people with neurotic personality traits do not enjoy growing older as much as peers, may need extra help

August 30, 2011
While most adult Americans report feeling more cheerful, content and other positive emotions as they reach their middle and later years, a subset who have more neurotic personality traits do not share in that trend toward ...

Drop in positive emotions -- rather than jump in negative -- linked to poorer health in widowhood

April 12, 2011
(PhysOrg.com) -- When a spouse or life partner dies, the survivor experiences more illness, mental health issues and earlier death than non-widowed counterparts, research has found. Now, a new Cornell prospective study reports ...

Accepting negative feelings provides emotional relief

February 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 ...

Feeling guilty versus feeling angry—who can tell the difference?

September 24, 2012
When you rear-end the car in front of you at a stoplight, you may feel a mix of different emotions such as anger, anxiety, and guilt. The person whose car you rear-ended may feel angered and frustrated by your carelessness, ...

Recommended for you

To dispel myths, redirect the belief, study says

September 24, 2018
Beliefs can be hard to change, even if they are scientifically wrong. But those on the fence about an idea can be swayed after hearing facts related to the misinformation, according to a study led by Princeton University.

Children found capable of using the 'wisdom of crowds'

September 24, 2018
Children, like adults, can improve their response to difficult tasks by the power of group work, new research led by the University of Bristol has found.

Leading addiction experts call for more neuroscience research on long-term recovery

September 24, 2018
September is addiction recovery month, and, in the midst of the current opioid epidemic, it's an apt moment for addiction research experts to map the future path forward for a long-term recovery strategy for substance abuse. ...

Eye training to help children with dyspraxia

September 24, 2018
Children with a coordination disorder can improve skills like throwing and catching with new training videos developed by the University of Exeter.

Take a step back from yourself to better realize the benefits of awe

September 24, 2018
Religion and nature can both lead to awe, and turning to one or the other is a common coping strategy for the stress that might accompany an upcoming presentation, exam or performance.

Stepfathers' 'Cinderella effect' challenged by new study

September 24, 2018
Long-held assumptions that stepfathers are far more likely to be responsible for child deaths than genetic parents have been challenged by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

0 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.