Brush it Off Today for a Better Future

Depression and anxiety symptoms found in people affected by stress earlier in life

(RxWiki News) Daily stressors are often unavoidable, but how they are handled is up to each and every person. How a person manages stress today may play a role in how he or she feels down the road.

In a recent study, researchers asked a group of people about their daily stressors and how those stressors affected their moods. A decade later, the researchers looked for symptoms of depression and anxiety in those same people.

The results showed that people who were more bothered by stressors had higher levels of depression and anxiety 10 years later.

"Manage daily stress for your long-term health."

Susan T. Charles, PhD, professor in the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California Irvine, led an investigation into the wear and tear of daily stressors.

“How we manage daily emotions matters to our overall mental health. We’re so focused on long-term goals that we don’t see the importance of regulating our emotions,” Dr. Charles said in a UC Irvine press release.

This study consisted of two waves. In the first wave, 711 men and women between 25 and 74 years of age reported on daily stressors and their daily negative mood for eight days in a row. The researchers contacted the participants for a second wave 10 years later to check for physical and psychological well-being.

In both of the study waves, participants filled out a survey in which they rated how often they experienced certain emotions and emotional states in the past 30 days on a scale of 1 (none of the time) to 5 (all of the time).

The survey asked about emotions of worthlessness, hopelessness, nervousness and restlessness. The two emotional states covered by the survey were feeling like everything is an effort and feeling so sad nothing brings cheer.

Participants also reported whether they had experienced depression, anxiety and any other mood disorder in the past 12 months.

In the first wave, 121 people self-reported symptoms of a mood disorder (depression, anxiety, etc.). In the second wave, 120 people reported symptoms consistent with a mood disorder.

In the second wave, 59 participants reported new or increased mood disorder symptoms, while 60 participants reported decreased or no symptoms of a mood disorder. Only 16 percent of participants reported emotional stability over the 10-year period.  

The researchers found that people with higher levels of negative mood on days without negative stressors were related to anxiety and depression at the 10-year follow-up.

“It’s important not to let everyday problems ruin your moments. After all, moments add up to days, and days add up to years. Unfortunately, people don’t see mental health problems as such until they become so severe that they require professional attention,” Dr. Charles said.

She continued, “Changing how you respond to stress and how you think about stressful situations is as important as maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.”

The authors concluded that how people experience daily negative mood and respond to negative events has an impact on their well-being in the future.

This study was published in March in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The National Institutes of Health provided funding support for this project. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Review Date: 
April 5, 2013