Effects of lifetime stress exposure on mental and physical health in young adulthood: How stress degrades and forgiveness protects health

J Health Psychol. 2016 Jun;21(6):1004-14. doi: 10.1177/1359105314544132. Epub 2014 Aug 19.


To examine risk and resilience factors that affect health, lifetime stress exposure histories, dispositional forgiveness levels, and mental and physical health were assessed in 148 young adults. Greater lifetime stress severity and lower levels of forgiveness each uniquely predicted worse mental and physical health. Analyses also revealed a graded Stress × Forgiveness interaction effect, wherein associations between stress and mental health were weaker for persons exhibiting more forgiveness. These data are the first to elucidate the interactive effects of cumulative stress severity and forgiveness on health, and suggest that developing a more forgiving coping style may help minimize stress-related disorders.

Keywords: coping; disease; forgivingness; mechanisms; stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Forgiveness*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Students / psychology
  • Young Adult