Ruminating about the past or ruminating about the future—which has the bigger impact on health? An exploratory study
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Stress has been shown to impact significantly on mental and physical well-being, and a key moderator variable in the stress process is continuing to ruminate about emotional upset: rumination serves to prolong elevations in adrenaline and cortisol, resulting in sustained cardiovascular strain and immune compromise. However, inspection of rumination scales suggests a distinction between prospective and retrospective rumination, and their differential contribution to stress and its consequences have not been explored. The aim of the present paper was two-fold: to establish that the two components could reliably be extracted from a widely-used rumination index, and whether their effects on anxiety, depression and physical symptoms could be distinguished. A final study explored their differential effects on self-harming behaviour, where the impact of rumination has already been demonstrated. Results showed that prospective rumination is the better predictor of psychological and physical health. The deleterious effects of stress are primarily associated with chronic rather than acute stress, and in the interests of resolving definitional confusion, the term stress is used in this paper to describe chronic stress and substituting pressure for acute ‘stress’. The distinction provides a justification for defining stress as rumination, since ruminating about emotional upset serves to prolong physiological arousal (fight-or-flight) which would otherwise revert to resting levels.
KeywordsRumination Stress Anxiety Depression Physical health Factor analysis
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Ethics approval was obtained from the relevant Research Ethics Committees for the samples and no external funding was received for the research.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Conflict of Interest
The Authors declare no conflict of interest.
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