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Am J Community Psychol. 1990 Oct;18(5):681-706.

Chronic stress, acute stress, and depressive symptoms.

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Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48106-1248.


Although life events continue to be the major focus of stress research, recent studies suggest that chronic stress should be a more central focus. An evaluation of this issue is presented using data from a large community survey of married men (n = 819) and women (n = 936). Results show that chronic stresses are more strongly related to depressive symptoms than acute stresses in all but one life domain. The interaction patterns exhibited by chronic and acute stresses are predominantly associated with lower levels of depression than those predicted by a main effects model. This pattern suggests that chronic stresses may reduce the emotional effects of acute stresses. Although the processes through which this effect occurs are not clear, it is suggested that anticipation and reappraisal reduce the stressfulness of an event by making its meaning more benign. Implications for future research on chronic and acute stress effects are discussed.

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