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01-03-2014 | Uitgave 2/2014

Quality of Life Research 2/2014

The relationship between negative life events, psychological distress and life satisfaction: a population-based study

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 2/2014
Gunnvor Marum, Jocelyne Clench-Aas, Ragnhild B. Nes, Ruth Kjærsti Raanaas
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An erratum to this article can be found at http://​dx.​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s11136-014-0640-9.



Negative life events may increase psychological distress and reduce life satisfaction (LS). This study investigates associations between negative life events and both positive and negative indicators of mental health and explores the extent to which these associations are buffered by sense of mastery and perceived social support.


Data were obtained from a large (N = 4,823), nationally representative sample of Norwegians aged 16 and older. Psychological distress was measured by The Hopkins Symptom Check List (HSCL-25), LS by a single question on overall satisfaction with life and negative life events by a 12-item list of threatening experiences. Moderating variables, sense of mastery and social support, were measured using standard instruments.


Adjusting for age, sex, education and income, all of the negative life events were significantly associated with both psychological distress and LS, with the exception of events pertinent to bereavement. Of the life events examined, financial strain constituted the strongest predictor. Overall, negative life events were more closely associated with psychological distress than LS. Altogether, negative life events explained 22.3 and 11.4 % of the variance in psychological distress and LS, respectively. Sense of mastery, but not perceived social support, emerged as a moderating factor between financial strain and both psychological distress and LS.


Negative life events are associated with higher psychological distress and lower LS, but the strength of the associations varies across events. The impact of financial strain and conflict appears particularly strong, but may be moderated by self-perceived mastery.

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