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J Intellect Disabil Res. 2008 Nov;52(11):883-95. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2008.01110.x. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

Life events as a risk factor for psychological problems in individuals with intellectual disabilities: a critical review.

Author information

  • 1School of Applied Sciences, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK. lee.hulbert-williams@wlv.ac.uk



Stressful life events such as bereavement, moving house and changing jobs have repeatedly been implicated as risk factors for mental and physical ill health. Since the 1940s, researchers have demonstrated the negative effects of stressful life events, refined methods of recording such events and investigated the relative impact of different types of event. These investigations have generally not extended to include people with intellectual disabilities.


We conducted a narrative review of research on life events as they occur to people with intellectual disabilities and critically assessed the evidence that life events function as a risk factor for psychological problems. Evidence was reviewed for an association between life events and a range of outcome variables, including affective disorders, challenging behaviour, psychosis and psychological problems more generally. We also critiqued the methodology behind the current evidence base and discussed a number of methodological advances that would help to strengthen it.


There is reasonable evidence that life events are associated with psychological problems, and that there is some tentative evidence that life events play a causal role, although to date, no relationship with psychosis in people with intellectual disabilities has been demonstrated. Life events are likely to be pertinent in clinical work with people with intellectual disabilities.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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