Negative life events and symptoms of depression and anxiety: stress causation and/or stress generation

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Background and Objectives: Stressful life events are known to contribute to
development of depression; however, it is possible this link is bidirectional. The
present study examined whether such stress generation effects are greater than the effects of stressful life events on depression, and whether stress generation is also evident with anxiety. Design: Participants were two large age cohorts (N = 732 aged 44 years; N = 705 aged 63 years) from the West of Scotland Twenty-07 study. Methods: Stressful life events, depression, and anxiety symptoms were measured twice five years apart. Cross-lagged panel analysis examined the mutual influences of stressful life events on depression and on anxiety over time. Results: Life events predicted later depressive symptomatology (p = .01), but the depression predicting life events relationship was less strong (p = .06), whereas earlier anxiety predicted life events five years later (p = .001). There was evidence of sex differences in the extent to which life events predicted later anxiety. Conclusions: This study provides evidence of stress causation for depression and weaker evidence for stress generation. In contrast, there was strong evidence of stress generation for anxiety but weaker evidence for stress causation, and that differed for men and women.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-371
JournalAnxiety, Stress and Coping
Issue number4
Early online date9 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015


  • Anxiety, Depression, Stressful life events, Stress Causation, Stress Generation