Manage daily stresses or it could impact your long-term mental health
3rd April 2013
stressedNext time you get ‘cut-up’ in traffic, argue with your partner, or come into conflict with a work colleague – think about the way you respond to these daily challenges thrown at you. A new study published online in the journal Psychological Science, suggests that our emotional responses and reactions to the stress involved with daily life, could provide a forecast into the state of our long-term mental health. Susan Charles, professor of psychology & social behaviour, and colleagues at the University of California, wanted to construct a study that could help to give answers to a long-standing question: Do everyday irritations add up to make the straw that breaks the camel's back, or do they make us stronger and ‘inoculate’ us against later tribulations? In order to try and obtain some answers to this intriguing question, the researchers extracted information from two national surveys (Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) and National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE)), analysing the possible connection between a person’s daily negative emotions and their mental health ten years later. The study subject’s overall levels of negative emotions were able to be used to determine psychological distress; feeling worthless, hopeless, nervous, and/or restless. After ten years, researchers looked at whether a diagnosis of an emotional disorder such as anxiety or depression was made for each person. Participants’ negative emotional responses to daily stressors — such as problems at work or home — predicted psychological distress and self-reported emotional disorder ten years later. The results were based on data from 711 participants - both men and women – ranging from 25 to 74 in age. Charles and her colleagues argue that their findings show that mental health outcomes are not merely restricted to major life events that happen to us, they are formed by apparently trivial/minor emotional experiences that come our way. “It`s important not to let everyday problems ruin your moments,” Prof Charles said. “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.”