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BACKGROUND: Stressful life events (SLEs) constitute key risk factors for depression. However, previous studies examining associations between SLEs and depression have been limited by focusing on single events, combining events into broad categories, and/or ignoring interrelationships between events in statistical analyses. Network analysis comprises a set of statistical methods well-suited for assessing relationships between multiple variables and can help surpass several limitations of previous studies. METHODS: We applied network analysis using mixed graphical models combining two large-scale population-based samples and >34,600 randomly sampled adults to investigate the associations between SLEs and current depressive symptoms in the general population. RESULTS: Numerous SLEs were uniquely associated with specific symptoms. Strong pairwise links were observed between SLEs during the past year and individual symptoms, e.g., between having experienced illness or injury and sleeping problems, having been degraded or humiliated and feeling blue, and between financial problems and hopelessness and being worried and anxious. Several SLEs, such as financial problems, sexual abuse, and having been degraded or humiliated, were associated with symptoms across more than one timepoint. More recent SLEs were generally more strongly associated with depressive symptoms. Several life events were strongly interrelated, such as multiple forms of abuse, and financial problems, unemployment, divorce, and serious illness or injury. LIMITATIONS: Limitations include a retrospective SLE measure, cross-sectional data, a brief self-report measure of depressive symptoms, and possible attrition bias in the sample. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings may have implications for public health efforts seeking to improve population mental health.

Original publication




Journal article


J Affect Disord

Publication Date





569 - 576


Depressive symptoms, Network analysis, Population mental health, Stressful life events, Humans, Adult, Depression, Life Change Events, Retrospective Studies, Cross-Sectional Studies, Risk Factors