Frequency of stressful life events and associations with mental health and general subjective health in the general population

Ana Nanette Tibubos*, Juliane Burghardt, Eva M. Klein, Elmar Brähler, Claus Jünger, Matthias Michal, Jörg Wiltink, Philipp S. Wild, Thomas Münzel, Susanne Singer, Norbert Pfeiffer, Manfred E. Beutel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

18 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: We aim to determine the frequency of stressful life events (SLEs) and investigate the association of single and aggregated SLEs with mental health and general subjective health, which has not been reported for an aging representative sample to date. Subjects and methods: A total of 12,947 participants (35–74 years old) of the Gutenberg Health Study (GHS) in Germany were analyzed. SLEs were analyzed at the item and aggregated level with unweighted and weighted sum scores. Additionally, the survey included measures of mental health, general subjective health and demographics. Descriptive analyses were stratified by sex, age and socioeconomic status. Results: Multivariate analyses of variance with SLE at the item level revealed large main effects for sex (ηp2 = 0.30) and age (ηp2 = 0.30); a moderate effect was found for socioeconomic status (ηp2 = 0.08). Interaction effects of sex with age and SES were also significant, but with negligible effect sizes. Regression analyses revealed similar results for unweighted and weighted SLE sum scores controlling for sociodemographic variables, supporting the detrimental relations among cumulated SLEs, depression (β = 0.18/0.19) and anxiety (β =0.17/0.17), but not general health. Mental health indicators showed the highest correlations with single SLEs such as change of sleep habits or personal finances. Severe SLEs according to proposed weight scores showed no or only weak associations with mental health. Conclusion: Representative data support a more distinct impact of SLEs on mental health than on general health. Single SLEs show strong associations with mental health outcome (e.g., change of sleep habits). The low associations between severe single SLEs and mental health merit further attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1080
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Public Health (Germany)
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • General health
  • Life events
  • Mental health
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Frequency of stressful life events and associations with mental health and general subjective health in the general population'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this