, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 303-315
Date: 16 Aug 2011

Elevated Appraisals of the Negative Impact of Naturally Occurring Life Events: A Risk Factor for Depressive and Anxiety Disorders

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The tendency to appraise naturally occurring life events (LEs) as having high negative impact may be a predisposing factor for the development of depression and anxiety disorders. In the current study, appraisals of the negative impact of recent LEs were examined in relationship to depressive and anxiety disorders in a sample of 653 adolescents who were administered diagnostic and life stress interviews at ages 15 and 20. Participants’ appraisals of the negative impact of LEs reported at age 15 were statistically adjusted using investigator-based ratings to control for objective differences across LEs. Higher appraisals of the negative impact of LEs were associated with both past and current depressive and anxiety disorders at age 15 and predicted subsequent first onsets of depressive and anxiety disorders occurring between ages 15 and 20. In addition, appraisals of the negative impact of LEs were particularly elevated among those experiencing both a depressive and anxiety disorder over the course of the study. The findings suggest that systematically elevated appraisals of the negative impact of LEs are a predisposing factor for depression and anxiety disorders and may represent a specific risk factor for co-morbid depression and anxiety in mid-adolescence and early adulthood.

This article is based in part on the doctoral dissertation of Emmanuel P. Espejo for the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and was chaired by Constance Hammen.This research was supported by a National Institute of Mental Health Dissertation Award (NIMH 1R36MH082618-01) awarded to Emmanuel P. Espejo. Data collection for this study was supported by National Institutes of Health R01 MH52239 (to Patricia A. Brennan and Constance Hammen). We thank Professor Jake Najman of the University of Queensland, colleagues William Bor and Gail Williams from the Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy, and project coordinators Robyne LeBrocque and Cheri Dalton Comber. We also thank Michelle G. Craske, Carlos V. Grijalva, and Carol S. Aneshensel for consulting on this project as well as the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. The authors have no financial interests to declare.