Influence of life event stress on physical illness: Substantive effects or methodological flaws?

David H. Schroeder, Paul T. Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Tested the hypothesis that the reported relationship between life event stress and physical illness is primarily a function of criterion and other content contamination in the stress measure. In particular, conventional life event measures included events related to physical health, which overlap with the criterion; events related to neuroticism, which influences the criterion; and vague or subjective events that could be affected by individual differences in psychological distress, response sets, and retrospective bias. 386 adult males and females (who ranged in age from their early 20's to their 90's) completed a version of the Schedule of Recent Experience, the Seriousness of Illness Rating Scale, the Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness Inventory, and the Eysenck Personality Inventory. Illness was significantly related to event subscales containing, respectively, health-related events, neuroticism-related events, and subjective events, but not to an "uncontaminated" event subscale. These results support the hypothesis of contamination and suggest that alternative approaches to the conceptualization and measurement of stress may need to be developed. (42 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)853-863
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 1984
Externally publishedYes


  • measurement contamination in correlation between life event stress &
  • physical illness, adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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