What is it about?

We studied how negative life events shaped depression and vice versa. We specifically examined whether people differ from each other more than from themselves. We found that when comparing people with each other, then those that reported more negative life events in the past 2 years, also reported more depressive symptoms. However, when we compared people with themselves, then we found that those that experienced negative life events in the previous years did not experience more depressive symptoms later. We did find however, that individuals that showed more depressive symptoms, generated more negative life events, including job loss and relationship difficulties, which is in line with the theory of stress generation.

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Why is it important?

It is important, because ample of research has suggested that negative life events have a causal effect on depressive symptoms. We replicated studies that showed that there is indeed a between-person effect, in the sense that individuals with more negative life events experience more depressive symptoms compared to people with fewer negative life events. However, if we go on the level of the individual, we only partly replicated these associations, which suggests that the relation between negative life events and depressive symptoms is far more complex than previously thought and might not be causal after all.

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This page is a summary of: Longitudinal associations between negative life events and depressive symptoms—A 9-year longitudinal study on between-person and within-person effects and the role of family history., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, September 2021, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/pspp0000381.
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