The right mindset: stress mindset moderates the association between perceived stress and depressive symptoms

Anxiety Stress Coping. 2020 May;33(3):248-255. doi: 10.1080/10615806.2020.1736900. Epub 2020 Mar 5.


Background and Objectives: Having a stress-is-enhancing mindset - the extent to which one believes the effects of stress are enhancing rather than debilitating - is associated with greater health and well-being, and may mitigate negative outcomes associated with experiencing stress. The present study aimed to examine stress mindset and whether it moderates the association between perceived stress and mental health outcomes.Design and Methods: Participants (N = 293) completed questionnaires assessing their stress mindset, perceived stress level, and current depressive and anxiety symptoms. Perceived stress and mental health were assessed again at a follow-up session one month later.Results: Across moderated linear regression analyses, there was a consistent pattern in which higher perceived stress was associated with higher mental health concerns, but the risk was greater for those with a stress-is-debilitating mindset. Stress mindset moderated the perceived stress-depression association at baseline (p = .026), at follow-up (p = .008), and when focusing on change in depressive symptoms from baseline to follow-up (p = .006).Conclusions: These results suggest that a stress-is-enhancing mindset mitigates the development of depressive and anxiety symptoms in college students faced with high levels of stress. The benefits of introducing emerging adults to an adaptive stress mindset are discussed.

Keywords: Stress mindset; college; depression; resilience; stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / complications*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Students / psychology
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities
  • Young Adult