The number one cause of depression and anxiety
A new study has found that traumatic life events are the number one cause of depression and anxiety, according to psychologists at the University of Liverpool who also found that the manner in which an individual perceives such events has a profound impact on the amount of stress they experience.
For the study, researchers examined the responses of more than 32,000 participants between the ages of 18 and 85 years after they had completed an online survey, which was designed to learn more about the causes and consequences of stress.
The researchers learned from the results of the survey that traumatic life events were the number one cause of anxiety and depression. The next largest cause was having a history of mental illness in the family, followed by financial problems and education issues.
Other factors contributing to stress were relationship problems and social status, but the results from the survey indicated that how a person perceives their stress was a more significant factor as it pertained to how much anxiety and depression an individual suffered.
Each participant was asked in the survey to answer a variety of questions ranging from life events and whether they had any family history of mental illness, to the status of their relationships and social life.
The survey also asked them about their typical responses to stressful events, and whether or not they felt comfortable discussing their problems with others.
Professor Peter Kinderman, of the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, led the study. He explained that those who suffer from depression and anxiety have conditions that are complex and do not have any single cause.
To learn more about why people get depressed and anxious, Kinderman and his colleagues set out to analyze the results from those who took the online survey made available by the BBC for its “Stress Test”.
Accordingly, Kinderman concluded that while genetics and our circumstances in life play a large role in contributing to stress and mental health issues, the results of the survey revealed that traumatic life events are the single largest cause of depression and anxiety.
More importantly though, is how an individual thinks about the traumatic event and how they cope with the fall out from such trauma in terms of the amount of stress and anxiety they experience as a result.
Although we can’t change what happens in the life of a person or alter their family history if mental illness is a part of it, Kinderman says that we can help that person by trying “to change the way they think and to teach them positive coping strategies that can mitigate and reduce stress levels.”
SOURCE: Psychological Processes Mediate the Impact of Familial Risk, Social Circumstances and Life Events on Mental Health, Kinderman P, Schwannauer M, Pontin E, Tai S (2013) PLoS ONE 8(10): e76564. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076564