Journal of Public Health

, Volume 24, Issue 5, pp 365–374 | Cite as

Sex-related differences in frequency and perception of stressful life events during adolescence

  • Bianca Raffaelli
  • Nicole Strache
  • Caroline Parchetka
  • Eric Artiges
  • Tobias Banaschewski
  • Arun Bokde
  • Uli Bromberg
  • Christian Buechel
  • Anna Cattrell
  • Patricia Conrod
  • Herta Flor
  • Vincent Frouin
  • Hugh Garavan
  • Angela Heinrich
  • Andreas Heinz
  • Bernd Ittermann
  • Sarah Jurk
  • Herve Lemaitre
  • Jean-Luc Martinot
  • Eva Mennigen
  • Marie-Laure Paillère Martinot
  • Dimitri Papadopoulos
  • Tomáš Paus
  • Luise Poustka
  • Michael N. Smolka
  • Nora C. Vetter
  • Henrik Walter
  • Rob Whelan
  • Gunter Schumann
  • Juergen Gallinat
Original Article

Abstract

Aim

Stressful life events and individual stress experience are important risk factors for the development of physical and mental disorders. One of the modulating factors determining interindividual differences in stress experience is the person’s gender. In the current study, we investigated sex-related differences in the frequency and perception of stressful life events during adolescence, a period characterized by particularly high stress levels.

Subject and methods

We examined 1,657 14-year-old adolescents who were recruited as part of the IMAGEN study, a European multicenter research project on mental well-being of young people. For the detection of stressful life events, we used the Life Events Questionnaire, a highly valid instrument for testing common stressful events during adolescence.

Results

Although boys and girls did not differ significantly regarding the total amount of stressful life events, girls reported more stressful events in the familial and body-related areas, whereas boys experienced more conflicts with superiors and independence-marking events. As regards valence, girls reported greater psychological distress compared to boys; however, in all significant results, the effect sizes were only small to moderate.

Conclusion

While previous research highlighted severe stressors in adult samples, we investigated for the first time adolescents with a broader scope of stressful events. The observed differences in the stress experience may contribute to explain the sex-dependent variations in the incidence of stress-related disorders.

Keywords

Adolescence Sex differences Stress experience Stressful life events 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work received support from the following sources: the European Union-funded FP6 Integrated Project IMAGEN (Reinforcement-related behaviour in normal brain function and psychopathology) (LSHM-CT- 2007–037286), the FP7 projects IMAGEMEND (602450; IMAging GEnetics for MENtal Disorders) and MATRICS (603016), the Innovative Medicine Initiative Project EU-AIMS (115300–2), a Medical Research Council Programme Grant “Developmental pathways into adolescent substance abuse” (93558), the Swedish funding agency FORMAS, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, University of Cambridge), the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London, the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF grants 01GS08152; 01EV0711; eMED SysAlc01ZX1311A; Forschungsnetz AERIAL), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG grants SM 80/7-1, SM 80/7-2, SFB 940/1), the National Institutes of Health, U.S.A. (Axon, Testosterone and Mental Health during Adolescence; RO1 MH085772-01A1).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bianca Raffaelli
    • 1
  • Nicole Strache
    • 1
  • Caroline Parchetka
    • 1
  • Eric Artiges
    • 2
  • Tobias Banaschewski
    • 3
  • Arun Bokde
    • 4
  • Uli Bromberg
    • 5
  • Christian Buechel
    • 5
  • Anna Cattrell
    • 6
    • 7
  • Patricia Conrod
    • 6
    • 8
  • Herta Flor
    • 9
  • Vincent Frouin
    • 10
  • Hugh Garavan
    • 11
  • Angela Heinrich
    • 9
  • Andreas Heinz
    • 1
  • Bernd Ittermann
    • 12
  • Sarah Jurk
    • 13
  • Herve Lemaitre
    • 14
  • Jean-Luc Martinot
    • 15
  • Eva Mennigen
    • 13
  • Marie-Laure Paillère Martinot
    • 16
  • Dimitri Papadopoulos
    • 10
  • Tomáš Paus
    • 17
  • Luise Poustka
    • 3
  • Michael N. Smolka
    • 13
  • Nora C. Vetter
    • 13
  • Henrik Walter
    • 1
  • Rob Whelan
    • 4
  • Gunter Schumann
    • 6
    • 7
  • Juergen Gallinat
    • 18
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Campus Charité Mitte, CharitéUniversitätsmedizin BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.INSERM, UMR 1000, Research unit Imaging and Psychiatry, CEA, DSV, I2BM-Service Hospitalier Frédéric Joliot, Orsay, University Paris-Sud 11, Orsay; University Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France; and Psychiatry Department 91G16, Orsay HospitalOrsayFrance
  3. 3.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty MannheimHeidelberg UniversityMannheimGermany
  4. 4.Discipline of Psychiatry, School of Medicine and Trinity College Institute of NeurosciencesTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  5. 5.University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, Haus S10HamburgGermany
  6. 6.Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & NeuroscienceKing’s College LondonLondonUK
  7. 7.Medical Research Council – Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, Institute of PsychiatryKings College LondonLondonUnited Kingdom
  8. 8.Department of PsychiatryUniversite de Montreal, CHU Ste Justine HospitalQuébecCanada
  9. 9.Department of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty MannheimHeidelberg UniversityMannheimGermany
  10. 10.Neurospin, Commissariat à l’Energie AtomiqueCEA-Saclay CenterParisFrance
  11. 11.Departments of Psychiatry and PsychologyUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  12. 12.Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)BerlinGermany
  13. 13.Department of Psychiatry and Neuroimaging CenterTechnische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany
  14. 14.INSERM, UMR 1000, Research unit Imaging and Psychiatry, CEA, DSV, I2BM-Service Hospitalier Frédéric Joliot, Orsay; Faculté de médecine, Université Paris-Sud, Le Kremlin-Bicêtre; and Université Paris DescartesParisFrance
  15. 15.INSERM, UMR 1000, Research unit Imaging and Psychiatry, CEA, DSV, I2BM-Service Hospitalier Frédéric Joliot, Orsay, University Paris-Sud 11, Orsay; and University Paris DescartesParisFrance
  16. 16.INSERM, UMR 1000, Research unit Imaging and Psychiatry, CEA, DSV, I2BM-Service Hospitalier Frédéric Joliot, Orsay; University Paris-Sud 11, Orsay; University Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris; and AP-HP, Department of Adolescent Psychopathology and Medicine, Maison de Solenn, Cochin HospitalParisFrance
  17. 17.Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest and Departments of Psychology and PsychiatryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  18. 18.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)HamburgGermany

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