Negative Recurrent Thinking as a Moderator of the Relationship Between Perceived Stress and Depressive Symptoms

  • Ana V. Nikčević
  • Gabriele Caselli
  • Deborah Green
  • Marcantonio M. SpadaEmail author
Original Brief Research Reports


Both perceived stress and negative recurrent thinking (rumination and worry) have been associated with depressive symptoms. However, no research to date has investigated the association between perceived stress and negative recurrent thinking. In the present study we aimed to explore whether perceived stress and negative recurrent thinking are associated and whether negative recurrent thinking moderates the relationship between perceived stress and depressive symptoms. A convenience sample of 273 undergraduate students completed the Perceived Stress Scale, the Ruminative Responses Scale-10, the Penn State Worry Questionnaire and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale 2 weeks prior to sitting mid-year examinations. Correlation analyses showed that perceived stress, rumination and worry were positively and significantly associated with depressive symptoms and that perceived stress was positively and significantly associated with rumination and worry. A moderation analysis confirmed that negative recurrent thinking moderated the relationship between perceived stress and depressive symptoms. The implications of these findings are discussed.


Depressive symptoms Metacognitive therapy Negative recurrent thinking Perceived stress Rational-emotive behaviour therapy Rumination Worry 


  1. Bergdahl, J., & Bergdahl, M. (2002). Perceived stress in adults: Prevalence and association of depression, anxiety and medication in a Swedish population. Stress and Health, 18, 235–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Borkovec, T. D., Ray, W. J., & Stober, J. (1998). Worry: A cognitive phenomenon intimately linked to affective, physiological and interpersonal behavioral processes. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 22, 561–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Borkovec, T. D., Robinson, E., Pruinsky, T., & DePree, J. A. (1983). Preliminary exploration of worry: Some characteristics and processes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 21, 9–16.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Calmes, C. A., & Roberts, J. E. (2007). Repetitive thought and emotional distress: Rumination and worry as prospective predictors of depressive and anxious symptomatology. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 30, 343–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caselli, G. (2013). Tecniche di colloquio metacognitivo [Metacognitive therapeutic interview techniques]. In G. M. Ruggiero & S. Sassaroli (Eds.), Il Colloquio in Psicoterapia Cognitiva. Tecnica e Pratica Clinica [The Interview in Cognitive Psychotherapy. Techniques and Clinical Practice] (pp. 211–222). Milano: Raffaello Cortina Editore.Google Scholar
  6. Chan, S. M., Chan, S. A. & Kwok, W. W. (2014). Ruminative and catastrophizing cognitive styles mediate the association between daily hassles and high anxiety in Hong Kong adolescents. Child Psychiatry and Human Development. Published electronically 26th February 2014.Google Scholar
  7. Chang, E. C. (1998). Does dispositional optimism moderate the relation between perceived stress and psychological well-being? A preliminary investigation. Personality and Individual Differences, 25, 233–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen, S., & Janicki-Deverts, D. (2012). Who’s stressed? Distributions of psychological stress in the United States in probability samples from 1983, 2006 and 2009. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 42, 1320–1334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Health and Social Behavior, 24, 385–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dryden, W. (2011). Dealing with clients’ emotional problems in life coaching. A rational-emotive and cognitive behaviour therapy (RECBT) approach. Hove: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and emotion in psychotherapy. Secaucus, NJ: The Citadel Press.Google Scholar
  12. Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1985). If it changes it must be a process: Study of emotion and coping during three stages of a college examination. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 150–170.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fresco, D. M., Frankel, A. N., Mennin, D. S., Turk, C. L., & Heimberg, R. G. (2002). Distinct and overlapping features of rumination and worry: The relationship of cognitive production to negative affective states. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 26, 179–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hong, R. Y. (2007). Worry and rumination: Differential associations with anxious and depressive symptoms and coping behavior. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 277–290.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jöreskog, K. G., & Sörbom, D. (1996). LISREL 8: User’s reference guide. Chicago, IL: Scientific Software International Inc.Google Scholar
  16. Just, N., & Alloy, L. B. (1997). The response styles theory of depression: Tests and an extension of the theory. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 106, 221–229.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kline, R. B. (1998). Principles and practice of structural equation modelling. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  18. Lazarus, R. S. (1999). Stress & emotion: A new synthesis. New York: Free Association Books.Google Scholar
  19. Little, T. D., Cunningham, W. A., Shahar, G., & Widaman, K. F. (2002). To parcel or not to parcel: Exploring the question, weighing the merits. Structural Equation Modeling, 9, 151–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Liu, C., Xie, B., Chou, C.-P., Kaprowski, C., Zhou, D., Palmer, P., et al. (2007). Perceived stress, depression and food consumption frequency in the college students of China seven cities. Physiology & Behavior, 92, 748–754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Martin, L. L., & Tesser, A. (1996). Some ruminative thoughts. In R. S. Wyer (Ed.), Advances in social cognition (Vol. 9, pp. 1–48). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  22. Meyer, T. J., Miller, M. L., Metzger, R. L., & Borkovec, T. D. (1990). Development and validation of the Penn State Worry Questionnaire. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 28, 487–495.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Michl, L. C., McLaughlin, K. A., Shepherd, K., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2013). Rumination as a mechanism linking stressful life events to symptoms of depression and anxiety: Longitudinal evidence in early adolescents and adults. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122, 339–352.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Mimura, C., & Griffiths, P. (2004). A Japanese version of the perceived stress scale: Translation and preliminary test. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 41, 379–385.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Molina, S., & Borkovec, T. D. (1994). The Penn State Worry Questionnaire: Psychometric properties and associated characteristics. In G. C. L. Davey & F. Tallis (Eds.), Worrying, perspectives on theory, assessment, and treatment (pp. 265–283). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  26. Muris, P., & Ollendick, T. H. (2005). The role of temperament in the etiology of child psychopathology. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 8, 271–290.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mykletun, A., Stordal, E., & Dahl, A. A. (2001). Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale: Factor structure, item analyses and internal consistency. British Journal of Psychiatry, 179, 540–544.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nolan, S. A., Roberts, J. E., & Gotlib, I. H. (1998). Neuroticism and ruminative response style as predictors of change in depressive symptomatology. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 22, 445–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Davis, C. G. (1999). «Thanks for sharing that » : Ruminators and their social support networks. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 801–814.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Morrow, J. (1991). A prospective study of depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms after a natural disaster: The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 115–121.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ruggiero, G. M., Ammendola, E., Caselli, G. & Sassaroli, S. (2014). REBT in Italy: Dissemination and Integration with Constructivism and Metacognition. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy (published online, January 23, 2014).Google Scholar
  32. Segerstrom, S. C., Stanton, A. L., Alden, I. E., & Shortridge, B. E. (2003). A multidimensional structure for repetitive thought: What’s on your mind, and how, and how much? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 909–921.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Spada, M. M., Nikčević, A. V., Moneta, G. B., & Wells, A. (2008). Metacognition, perceived stress, and negative emotion. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 1172–1181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Treynor, W., Gonzalez, R., & Nolen-Hoesksema, S. (2003). Rumination reconsidered: A psychometric analysis. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 27, 247–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Van Eck, M. M., & Nicolson, N. A. (1994). Perceived stress and salivary cortisol in daily life. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 16, 221–227.Google Scholar
  36. Verstraeten, K., Vasey, M. W., Raes, F., & Bijttebier, P. (2009). Temperament and risk for depressive symptoms in adolescence: Mediation by rumination and moderation by effortful control. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37, 349–361.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Watkins, E. R. (2009). Depressive rumination: Investigating mechanisms to improve cognitive behavioural treatments. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, 38, 8–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Watkins, E., Scott, J., Wingrove, J., Rimes, K., Bathurst, N., Steiner, H., et al. (2007). Rumination-focused cognitive behaviour therapy for residual depression: A case series. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 2144–2154.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wells, A. (2009). Metacognitive therapy for anxiety and depression. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  40. Wells, A., & Matthews, G. (1994). Attention and emotion: A clinical perspective. Hove, UK: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  41. Zigmond, A. S., & Snaith, R. P. (1983). The hospital anxiety and depression scale. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 67, 361–370.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana V. Nikčević
    • 1
  • Gabriele Caselli
    • 2
  • Deborah Green
    • 1
  • Marcantonio M. Spada
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Kingston UniversityLondonUK
  2. 2.Studi CognitiviMilanItaly
  3. 3.Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Human SciencesLondon South Bank UniversityLondonUK

Personalised recommendations