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Keywords:

  • perceived stress;
  • stressor exposure;
  • anxiety;
  • health;
  • sex differences

Abstract

Objectives: Previous studies have been inconsistent with regard to the extent to which stress perception, rather than stressor exposure, predicts negative health symptoms. Because sex differences have been observed in all three of these variables, in this study the possibility that sex differences also exist in the relationships between them is investigated.

Methods: Self-report inventories of perceived stress, stressor exposure, and negative health symptoms were given to 107 young-adult participants (65 females, 42 males).

Results: Sex differences were observed in the associations among perceived stress, stressor exposure, and negative health symptom rates. Specifically, while higher perceived stress and higher stressor exposure rates independently predicted higher negative health symptoms rates in females, only higher stressor exposure rates independently predicted higher negative health symptoms in males. Indeed, unexpectedly, after controlling for exposure to stressors there was a trend towards higher perceived stress predicting lower negative health symptoms in males.

Conclusions: While exposure to stress was a significant negative predictor of health for both sexes, perception of stress was predictive only for females. One implication of this finding is that different psychological models are needed to predict health symptoms in the two sexes. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.