Assessment of Microstressors in Adults: Questionnaire Development and Ecological Validation of the Mainz Inventory of Microstressors

JMIR Ment Health. 2020 Feb 24;7(2):e14566. doi: 10.2196/14566.


Background: Many existing scales for microstressor assessment do not differentiate between objective (ie, observable) stressor events and stressful cognitions or concerns. They often mix items assessing objective stressor events with items measuring other aspects of stress, such as perceived stressor severity, the evoked stress reaction, or further consequences on health, which may result in spurious associations in studies that include other questionnaires that measure such constructs. Most scales were developed several decades ago; therefore, modern life stressors may not be represented. Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) allows for sampling of current behaviors and experiences in real time and in the natural habitat, thereby maximizing the generalization of the findings to real-life situations (ie, ecological validity) and minimizing recall bias. However, it has not been used for the validation of microstressor questionnaires so far.

Objective: The aim is to develop a questionnaire that (1) allows for retrospective assessment of microstressors over one week, (2) focuses on objective (ie, observable) microstressors, (3) includes stressors of modern life, and (4) separates stressor occurrence from perceived stressor severity.

Methods: Cross-sectional (N=108) and longitudinal studies (N=10 and N=70) were conducted to evaluate the Mainz Inventory of Microstressors (MIMIS). In the longitudinal studies, EMA was used to compare stressor data, which was collected five times per day for 7 or 30 days with retrospective reports (end-of-day, end-of-week). Pearson correlations and multilevel modeling were used in the analyses.

Results: High correlations were found between end-of-week, end-of-day, and EMA data for microstressor occurrence (counts) (r≥.69 for comparisons per week, r≥.83 for cumulated data) and for mean perceived microstressor severity (r≥.74 for comparisons per week, r≥.85 for cumulated data). The end-of-week questionnaire predicted the EMA assessments sufficiently (counts: beta=.03, 95% CI .02-.03, P<.001; severity: beta=.73, 95% CI .59-.88, P<.001) and the association did not change significantly over four subsequent weeks.

Conclusions: Our results provide evidence for the ecological validity of the MIMIS questionnaire.

Keywords: daily hassles; ecological momentary assessment; microstressor; validation.