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Perseverative Cognitions and Stress Exposure: Comparing Relationships With Psychological Health Across a Diverse Adult Sample



Both exposure to stress and perseverative cognitions (PCs)-repetitive cognitive representations of real or imagined stressors-are linked with poor psychological health. Yet, stress exposure and PCs are correlated, thus potentially obscuring any unique effects.


The purpose of this paper is to concurrently test associations between stress exposure and PCs and psychological health to examine the independent relationship of each with psychological health. Moreover, we examined whether these relationships are similar across sex, age, and race.


An adult community sample (n = 302) completed a measure of stress exposure, three PCs scales, and questionnaires assessing self-reported psychological health, including emotional well-being, vitality, social functioning, role limitations due to personal problems, subjective well-being, depressive symptoms, and poor sleep quality.


Structural equation modeling was used to test a model in which both stress exposure and PCs predict psychological health. PCs consistently predicted all the psychological health outcomes, but stress was largely unrelated to the outcomes despite bivariate correlations suggesting a relationship. A follow-up model identified indirect effects of stress exposure on psychological health via PCs. Results were fairly consistent regardless of one's sex, age, or race.


PCs robustly predicted all of the psychological health outcomes, intimating PCs as a common pathway to poor psychological health. Results have implications for stress interventions, including the need to address PCs after experiencing stress.

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