Researchers assert that affective responses to seemingly minor daily events have long-term implications for mental health, yet this phenomenon has rarely been investigated. In the current study, we examined how levels of daily negative affect and affective reactivity in response to daily stressors predicted general affective distress and self-reported anxiety and depressive disorders 10 years after they were first assessed. Across eight consecutive evenings, participants (N = 711; age = 25 to 74 years) reported their daily stressors and their daily negative affect. Increased levels of negative affect on nonstressor days were related to general affective distress and symptoms of an affective disorder 10 years later. Heightened affective reactivity to daily stressors predicted greater general affective distress and an increased likelihood of reporting an affective disorder. These findings suggest that the average levels of negative affect that people experience and how they respond to seemingly minor events in their daily lives have long-term implications for their mental health.
Keywords: adult development; affective distress; affective reactivity; aging; emotion; life expectations; negative affect; stressors.