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J Pers. 1998 Feb;66(1):85-103.

Diurnal patterns of unpleasant mood: associations with neuroticism, depression, and anxiety.

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  • 1University of Michigan, USA.


The literature on symptoms of depression has included diurnal changes in mood. The morning-worse pattern is commonly mentioned. This pattern is often associated with endogenous or vegetative symptoms (e.g., weight and appetite loss, loss of pleasure, psychomotor retardation). However, depression researchers have also identified an evening-worse pattern of mood. This pattern is sometimes thought to be associated with milder depressive symptoms, and may characterize chronic dysthymia rather than clinical depression. The present study examines a nonclinical sample to test the hypothesis that an evening-worse diurnal pattern of mood would be associated with trait neuroticism, anxiety, and subclinical depressive symptoms. An experience sampling methodology was employed to assess mood three times a day for 60 consecutive days. This allowed us to calculate a reliable aggregate score for diurnal mood patterns. The evening-worse pattern was associated with many neurotic features, with scores on depression and anxiety measures, and with a cognitive style indicative of hopelessness. Discussion focuses on how an evening-worse diurnal pattern of mood may be indicative of mild subclinical depression, chronic dysthymia, or personality traits associated with negative affectivity.

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