Understanding stress reports in daily life: a coordinated analysis of factors associated with the frequency of reporting stress

J Behav Med. 2019 Jun;42(3):545-560. doi: 10.1007/s10865-018-00008-x. Epub 2019 Jan 1.


Although stress is a common experience in everyday life, a clear understanding of how often an individual experiences and reports stress is lacking. Notably, there is little information regarding factors that may influence how frequently stress is reported, including which stress dimension is measured (i.e., stressors-did an event happen, subjective stress-how stressed do you feel, conditional stress-how stressful a stressor was) and the temporal features of that assessment (i.e., time of day, day of study, weekday vs. weekend day). The purpose of the present study was to conduct a coordinated analysis of five independent ecological momentary assessment studies utilizing varied stress reporting dimensions and temporal features. Results indicated that, within days, stress was reported at different frequencies depending on the stress dimension. Stressors were reported on 15-32% of momentary reports made within a day; across days, the frequency ranged from 42 to 76% of days. Depending on the cutoff, subjective stress was reported more frequently ranging about 8-56% of all moments within days, and 40-90% of days. Likewise, conditional stress ranged from just 3% of moments to 22%, and 11-69% of days. For the temporal features, stress was reported more frequently on weekdays (compared to weekend days) and on days earlier in the study (relative to days later in the study); time of day was inconsistently related to stress reports. In sum, stress report frequency depends in part on how stress is assessed. As such, researchers may wish to measure stress in multiple ways and, in the case of subjective and conditional stress with multiple operational definitions, to thoroughly characterize the frequency of stress reporting.

Keywords: Coordinated analysis; Ecological momentary assessment; Stress; Stressor; Subjective stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology*
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Pessimism / psychology
  • Research Design
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*