Background: We examined the extent to which perceived life change following experiences of stressful life events, differentiated by type of stressor, influenced mental health during adulthood. Methods: The analytic sample of 2073 cohort members was drawn from the MRC National Survey of Health and Development, a sample followed since their birth in March 1946. Logistic regression was used to assess the relationship between stressors reported at 36 and 43 years and common mental disorder at 36, 43, and 53 years. Common mental disorder was measured using the Present State Exam at 36 years, the Psychiatric Symptom Frequency at 43 years, and the 28-item General Health Questionnaire at 53 years. Results: Data spanning across nearly 20 years suggest that stressors perceived to have contributed to a notable life change increased the likelihood of scoring above the cut off score for common mental disorder in comparison to stressors experienced without subsequent life change. Models were adjusted for gender, educational attainment, social class, relationship status, and past episodes of common mental disorder. This relationship appears to be most evident for proximal family and economic stressors and distal interpersonal relationship stressors experienced by close friends and relatives. Limitations: All study information is based on self-reports and details about the nature of the life change or cognitive attribution style were not available. Conclusions: Appraisals of changes following stressful life events may be more important than the occurrence of stressors alone in assessing the impact of stressful life events on adult mental health. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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