The University of Liverpool and BBC’s Lab UK recently carried out the UK’s biggest ever online test on stress. Results revealed that rumination and self-blame are both contributing factors to stress and anxiety.
Psychologists say that a bit of self-reflection is in fact a good thing, however when introspection goes awry and negative thoughts get stuck on repeat – we are headed for trouble.
The findings of the study suggest that dwelling too much on negative thoughts and events is the biggest predictor of depression and anxiety, and even determines the level of stress people feel. Depression and anxiety are the two most common mental health problems in the UK according to the Mental Health Foundation.
The online test collected data from 32,827 people from 172 countries. Peter Kinderman, leader of the study and professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool, said people who didn’t blame themselves or ruminate had lower levels of anxiety and depression, even if they had experienced negative events throughout their lives:
“Dwelling on negative thoughts and self blame have previously been recognised as important when it comes to mental health, but not to the extent this study has shown. The findings suggest both are crucial psychological pathways to depression and anxiety.”
Of course, the human mind is a complex thing and health professionals agree that there is no single cause for depression and anxiety, although certain factors seem to have more impact than others.
The study revealed that traumatic events such as bullying or abuse were the biggest cause of depression and anxiety when dwelled upon. Following this is income, family history and education. Finally comes relationship status and social inclusion.
Psychologists say this study has a positive message; while it can be hard for people to be told their problems are out of their control – caused by experiences or genetics for example, knowing the way they think and consider the past can influence their mental health is something that is well within their control.