Reciprocal relationship between acute stress and acute fatigue in everyday life in a sample of university students

Biol Psychol. 2015 Sep;110:42-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2015.06.009. Epub 2015 Jul 2.


We investigated whether stress may influence fatigue, or vice versa, as well as factors mediating this relationship. Fifty healthy participants (31 females, 23.6±3.2 years) completed up to 5 momentary assessments of stress and fatigue during 5 days of preparation for their final examinations (exam condition) and 5 days of a regular semester week (control condition). Sleep quality was measured by self-report at awakening. A sub-group of participants (n=25) also collected saliva samples. Fatigue was associated with concurrent stress, stress reported at the previous measurement point, and previous-day stress. However, momentary stress was also predicted by concurrent fatigue, fatigue at the previous time point, and previous-day fatigue. Sleep quality mediated the association between stress and next-day fatigue. Cortisol and alpha-amylase did not mediate the stress-fatigue relationship. In conclusion, there is a reciprocal stress-fatigue relationship. Both prevention and intervention programs should comprehensively cover how stress and fatigue might influence one another.

Keywords: Autonomic nervous system; Cortisol; Fatigue; Sleep quality; Stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Fatigue / complications
  • Fatigue / physiopathology
  • Fatigue / psychology*
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis
  • Male
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Self Report
  • Sleep
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Students
  • Young Adult
  • alpha-Amylases / analysis


  • alpha-Amylases
  • Hydrocortisone