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Major and minor life events as predictors of psychological distress: Further issues and findings


Current trends in research on stressful life events and disease have been to focus upon other psychosocial factors that may be associated with stress and illness relationships. Recently, the study of relatively minor life events or situations (e.g., daily hassles) has provided a promising alternative avenue of inquiry into basic stress measurement and the relationship of stress to disorder. While initial findings in this area of research appear encouraging, several methodological and procedural issues currently preclude definitive conclusions. The present paper outlines several of the most important limitations of existing research on this topic and provides further data taking these limitations into account for the role of minor life events as predictors of psychological distress. The results of the present prospective study indicate that undesirable minor events (e.g., hassles) significantly predict psychological symptoms, even once initial symptom status is controlled for statistically. Additionally, hassles were uniformly better predictors of subsequent psychological symptoms than were major life event categories; potentially important interactive effects (e.g., hassles x prior symptoms; hassles x prior major events) were also tested and their implications are discussed. Finally, basic associations between major and minor events were examined. The findings are discussed specifically in the context of recent advances in this area and more generally in relation to clarifying our understanding of psychosocial predictors of disorder.

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This work was supported in part by NIH BRSG Grant S07 RRO7084-14.

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Monroe, S.M. Major and minor life events as predictors of psychological distress: Further issues and findings. J Behav Med 6, 189–205 (1983).

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Key words

  • stressful life events
  • daily hassles
  • psychological symptoms