Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality

Health Psychol. 2012 Sep;31(5):677-84. doi: 10.1037/a0026743. Epub 2011 Dec 26.


Objective: This study sought to examine the relationship among the amount of stress, the perception that stress affects health, and health and mortality outcomes in a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults.

Methods: Data from the 1998 National Health Interview Survey were linked to prospective National Death Index mortality data through 2006. Separate logistic regression models were used to examine the factors associated with current health status and psychological distress. Cox proportional hazard models were used to determine the impact of perceiving that stress affects health on all-cause mortality. Each model specifically examined the interaction between the amount of stress and the perception that stress affects health, controlling for sociodemographic, health behavior, and access to health care factors.

Results: 33.7% of nearly 186 million (unweighted n = 28,753) U.S. adults perceived that stress affected their health a lot or to some extent. Both higher levels of reported stress and the perception that stress affects health were independently associated with an increased likelihood of worse health and mental health outcomes. The amount of stress and the perception that stress affects health interacted such that those who reported a lot of stress and that stress impacted their health a lot had a 43% increased risk of premature death (HR = 1.43, 95% CI [1.2, 1.7]).

Conclusions: High amounts of stress and the perception that stress impacts health are each associated with poor health and mental health. Individuals who perceived that stress affects their health and reported a large amount of stress had an increased risk of premature death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality, Premature*
  • Perception*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult