Anxiety, affect, self-esteem, and stress: mediation and moderation effects on depression

PLoS One. 2013 Sep 9;8(9):e73265. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073265. eCollection 2013.


Background: Mediation analysis investigates whether a variable (i.e., mediator) changes in regard to an independent variable, in turn, affecting a dependent variable. Moderation analysis, on the other hand, investigates whether the statistical interaction between independent variables predict a dependent variable. Although this difference between these two types of analysis is explicit in current literature, there is still confusion with regard to the mediating and moderating effects of different variables on depression. The purpose of this study was to assess the mediating and moderating effects of anxiety, stress, positive affect, and negative affect on depression.

Methods: Two hundred and two university students (males = 93, females = 113) completed questionnaires assessing anxiety, stress, self-esteem, positive and negative affect, and depression. Mediation and moderation analyses were conducted using techniques based on standard multiple regression and hierarchical regression analyses.

Main findings: The results indicated that (i) anxiety partially mediated the effects of both stress and self-esteem upon depression, (ii) that stress partially mediated the effects of anxiety and positive affect upon depression, (iii) that stress completely mediated the effects of self-esteem on depression, and (iv) that there was a significant interaction between stress and negative affect, and between positive affect and negative affect upon depression.

Conclusion: The study highlights different research questions that can be investigated depending on whether researchers decide to use the same variables as mediators and/or moderators.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Anxiety / diagnosis*
  • Depression / complications
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Concept*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.