The Effects of Stress Beliefs on Daily Affective Stress Responses

Johannes A.C. Laferton, Susanne Fischer, David D. Ebert, Nikola M. Stenzel, Johannes Zimmermann

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Negative beliefs about the effects of stress have been associated with poorer health and increased mortality. However, evidence on the psychological mechanisms linking stress beliefs to health is scarce, especially regarding real-life stress. PURPOSE: The aim of the current study was to investigate the effects of stress beliefs on affect in the daily stress process in a population prone to health-impairing effects of stress: university students. METHODS: Using daily diaries, 98 university students reported on daily perceived social and work-related stressors as well as positive and negative affect for 10 consecutive days. Stress beliefs, depressive and anxiety symptoms, neuroticism, and demographic variables were assessed prior to the daily diary phase. RESULTS: Hierarchical linear models revealed a significant cross-level interaction between negative stress beliefs and the association of daily social stressors with negative affect (B = 0.24; 99% confidence interval [CI] = 0.08-0.41, p < .001). When experiencing social stress, participants who held high negative stress beliefs had higher daily negative affect (simple slope = 4.09; p < .001); however, for participants who held low negative stress beliefs the association between daily social stress and daily negative affect was considerably smaller (simple slope = 2.12; p < .001). Moreover, individuals believing stress to be controllable showed higher positive affect throughout the 10-day daily diary phase. CONCLUSIONS: Negative stress beliefs were found to moderate the affective response to daily real-life stressors. Given the established relationship between affect and health, this study provides initial evidence of psychological mechanisms linking stress beliefs to health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-267
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number4
Early online date2 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2020


  • Affect
  • Daily diary
  • Stress
  • Stress beliefs
  • Stress mindset
  • Stress reappraisal


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