Understanding stress reports in daily life: a coordinated analysis of factors associated with the frequency of reporting stress

  • Matthew J. ZawadzkiEmail author
  • Stacey B. Scott
  • David M. Almeida
  • Stephanie T. Lanza
  • David E. Conroy
  • Martin J. Sliwinski
  • Jinhyuk Kim
  • David Marcusson-Clavertz
  • Robert S. Stawski
  • Paige M. Green
  • Christopher N. Sciamanna
  • Jillian A. Johnson
  • Joshua M. SmythEmail author


Although stress is a common experience in everyday life, a clear understanding of how often an individual experiences and reports stress is lacking. Notably, there is little information regarding factors that may influence how frequently stress is reported, including which stress dimension is measured (i.e., stressors—did an event happen, subjective stress—how stressed do you feel, conditional stress—how stressful a stressor was) and the temporal features of that assessment (i.e., time of day, day of study, weekday vs. weekend day). The purpose of the present study was to conduct a coordinated analysis of five independent ecological momentary assessment studies utilizing varied stress reporting dimensions and temporal features. Results indicated that, within days, stress was reported at different frequencies depending on the stress dimension. Stressors were reported on 15–32% of momentary reports made within a day; across days, the frequency ranged from 42 to 76% of days. Depending on the cutoff, subjective stress was reported more frequently ranging about 8–56% of all moments within days, and 40–90% of days. Likewise, conditional stress ranged from just 3% of moments to 22%, and 11–69% of days. For the temporal features, stress was reported more frequently on weekdays (compared to weekend days) and on days earlier in the study (relative to days later in the study); time of day was inconsistently related to stress reports. In sum, stress report frequency depends in part on how stress is assessed. As such, researchers may wish to measure stress in multiple ways and, in the case of subjective and conditional stress with multiple operational definitions, to thoroughly characterize the frequency of stress reporting.


Stress Stressor Subjective stress Ecological momentary assessment Coordinated analysis 



This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health Science of Behavior Change Common Fund Program through an award administered by the National Institutes of Aging (UH2-AG052167). Additional information on this project, including ongoing updates on results and technical details, can be found at the project page hosted on the Open Science Framework ( as they become available. Support for the individual datasets was provided by the following sources. For ESCAPE, this work was supported by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), the Leonard and Sylvia Marx Foundation, the Czap Foundation, and the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG039409, R01 AG042595, P01 AG03949, CTSA 1UL1TR001073). For SAWM, this work was supported by the National Institute on Aging (R01 AG026728). For SHADE, this work was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (R01 HL067990). For WDL, this work was supported by the Gallup Organization. For NTHS, this work was supported by the Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Opportunity Network (OppNet) and by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (R01 HL109340).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Matthew J. Zawadzki, Stacey B. Scott, David M. Almeida, Stephanie T. Lanza, David E. Conroy, Martin J. Sliwinski, Jinhyuk Kim, David Marcusson-Clavertz, Robert S. Stawski, Paige M. Green, Christopher N. Sciamanna, Jillian A. Johnson and Joshua M. Smyth declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew J. Zawadzki
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stacey B. Scott
    • 2
  • David M. Almeida
    • 3
  • Stephanie T. Lanza
    • 4
  • David E. Conroy
    • 5
  • Martin J. Sliwinski
    • 3
  • Jinhyuk Kim
    • 6
  • David Marcusson-Clavertz
    • 6
  • Robert S. Stawski
    • 7
  • Paige M. Green
    • 8
  • Christopher N. Sciamanna
    • 9
  • Jillian A. Johnson
    • 4
  • Joshua M. Smyth
    • 10
    Email author
  1. 1.Psychological SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaMercedUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  3. 3.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biobehavioral HealthThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  5. 5.Departments of Kinesiology and Human Development and Family StudiesThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  6. 6.Center for Healthy AgingThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  7. 7.School of Social and Behavioral SciencesOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  8. 8.National Cancer InstituteNational Institutes of HealthRockvilleUSA
  9. 9.Department of MedicineThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  10. 10.Departments of Biobehavioral Health and MedicineThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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