Shared and individual-specific daily stress-reactivity in a cross-diagnostic at-risk sample

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Altered stress-reactivity may represent a general risk factor for psychopathology. In a broad at-risk sample, we examined (a) how stress and mild, daily expressions of psychopathology were interrelated over time, (b) whether we could detect subgroups with similar dynamics between stress and daily expressions of psychopathology (i.e., stress-reactivity), and (c) whether stress-reactivity was associated with psychopathology and social functioning. One hundred twenty-two young adults (43.4% women, mean age 23.6) at risk for developing a wide range of psychopathology completed a 6-month daily diary study. We used group iterative multiple model estimation (GIMME) to identify temporal associations between event stress and 11 mild expressions of psychopathology (e.g., feeling down, restlessness) at group, subgroup, and individual levels. Stress was associated with feeling irritated during the same day for >70% of individuals, and with feeling down and worrying during the same day for >50% of individuals. No stable subgroups characterized by similar daily stress-reactivity were identified. Instead, we observed 71 different stress-reactivity patterns in 122 individuals. Average daily event stress, but not overall stress-reactivity (weighted stress-response), was associated with psychopathology severity and social dysfunction. This study showed important similarities, as well as many differences between individuals, in terms of the impact of stress on mild expressions of psychopathology in daily life. Clustering based on similar stress-reactivity did not lead to stable subgroups. Finally, average daily stress levels, but not daily stress-reactivity, were associated with psychopathologic severity and social dysfunction. Findings highlight the importance of considering heterogeneity in stress-reactivity, but also challenges for identifying generalizable processes in doing so. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-234
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of psychopathology and clinical science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1-Apr-2022


  • Adult
  • Anxiety
  • Emotions/physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Young Adult

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