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Anxiety, affect, and activity in teenagers: monitoring daily life with electronic diaries.

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1
Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

The everyday experiences of a community sample of adolescents differing in anxiety level were compared by means of electronic diaries.

METHOD:

One hundred fifty-five ninth-grade adolescents completed electronic diaries every 30 minutes for two 4-day intervals, reporting their moods, activities, social settings, dietary intake, smoking, and alcohol use. Teenagers were stratified into low-, middle-, or high-anxiety groups on the basis of diary ratings and, separately, questionnaire scores.

RESULTS:

High-anxiety teenagers, compared with low-anxiety teenagers, expressed higher levels not only of anxiety and stress but also of anger, sadness, and fatigue, along with lower levels of happiness and well-being. They reported fewer conversations and less recreational activity relative to achievement-oriented pursuits, stronger eating and smoking urges, and more tobacco use. There were few gender differences. Despite a tendency to spend less time with peers, high-anxiety teenagers were more likely to show reduced anxiety when in the company of friends. Sharper differentiations among anxiety subgroups emerged when stratification was based on diary reports rather than on questionnaire scores.

CONCLUSION:

Even when anxiety problems fall below diagnostic thresholds, the daily lives of anxious adolescents differ meaningfully from those of their peers in affective, behavioral, and contextual domains.

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