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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Does group life buffer the effects of cumulative stress on long-term physical and mental health? Sanghe, Nathan


Multiple group membership has been found to positively contribute to individuals’ health and wellbeing (Lam et al., 2018), but little research has examined the potential buffering effects of group involvement on the negative impacts of stress. The purpose of my Master’s thesis research was to address this gap in the literature by exploring the moderating effects of social and sport group involvement on the relationship between cumulative stress and long-term physical and mental health outcomes. Data were collected from 3682 aged adults (aged 20-74 years), across approximately 10 years, as part of the longitudinal Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study. Measures of group life and cumulative stress were assessed between 2004-2009 as part of MIDUS 2 (operationalized as ‘Time 1’), and a range of physical and mental health measures were assessed between 2013-2019 as part of MIDUS 3 (operationalized as ‘Time 2’). Cumulative stress at Time 1 was significantly and positively correlated with Time 2 mental health outcomes, including general affective distress (r = 0.30), self-reported affective disorder (r = 0.17), and affective diagnosis based on self-report (r = 0.19). Additionally, a positive, albeit very weak, correlation was observed between Time 1 cumulative stress and Time 2 physical health (r = 0.07). Group involvement did not significantly moderate the relationship between stress and any of the health outcomes examined in this study (general affective distress, β = 0.028, p = 0.18; self-reported affective disorder, β = 0.005, p = 0.60, affective diagnosis based on self-report, β = 0.008, p = 0.47. The same was true for physical health (β = -0.003, p = 0.17). These findings indicate that the protective effects of group life on health outcomes found in previous research was not observed within the MIDUS dataset, at least in relation to buffering against cumulative stress. Specifically, greater involvement in group life, observed within MIDUS 2, did not dampen the effects of cumulative stress in relation to either physical or mental health outcomes approximately 10 years later.

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