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Biggest Cause of Anxiety, Depression: Traumatic Life Events

Update Date: Oct 16, 2013 06:04 PM EDT

Traumatic life events are the biggest cause of anxiety and depression, according to a new study.

How a person thinks about these events determines the level of stress they experience, according to researchers.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool analyzed the responses of over 32,000 participants aged 18 to 85. Participants were asked to complete an online survey about the causes and consequences of stress.

The findings revealed that traumatic life events were the single biggest determinant of anxiety and depression followed by a family history of mental illness and income and education levels. Researchers found that relationship status and social factors made small, but significant, contributions to stress.

The findings also show that a person's thinking style was also important in determining the level of anxiety and depression a person experienced.

"Depression and anxiety are not simple conditions and there is no single cause. We wanted to find out more about what caused people to suffer from anxiety and depression and why some people suffered more than others," lead researcher Professor Peter Kinderman, Head of the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society said in a news release.

"Whilst we know that a person's genetics and life circumstances contribute to mental health problems, the results showed that traumatic life events are the main reason people suffer from anxiety and depression. However, the way a person thinks about, and deals with, stressful events is as much an indicator of the level of stress and anxiety they feel," Kinderman added.

"Whilst we can't change a person's family history or their life experiences, it is possible to help a person to change the way they think and to teach them positive coping strategies that can mitigate and reduce stress levels," he concluded.

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