Living with mental illness, dying of disease
: the impact of stress, depression and the self-defeating attitudes on physical health

  • Wendy Thomson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The current research explores stress, personality, and the mortality and causes following a depressive illness in a series of seven studies. Study 1 found a positive relationship between the personality dimension of psychoticism and stress in those patients attending a psychiatric day unit who failed to benefit from the treatment. Study 2 explored this relationship further with a nonclinical sample (i.e., commercial airline pilots) and again found a link between personality and stress. Next, the research sought to explore depression more fully in a large data base of patients who had been treated for depression in the early 1960’s followed up many years later. Study 3 investigated the pathways that might link depression and early mortality. This study found such pathways were long term, as well as short-term. Study 4 sought to develop this work further by examining the database for suicide rates. The suicide rates were significantly higher for men in the general population, and for depressed patients of both sexes. However, the results also showed that depression may be a particularly strong predictor of suicide risk among women. Study 5 further explored the data base for physical outcomes of depression, in this case, ischaemic heart disease. Significantly higher rates of death from ischemic heart disease before the age of 70 were found among males with endogenous depression. Study 6 furthered this work by exploring the data base for strokes following depression. The findings showed a positive relationship between depression and strokes later in life and suggested that the identification of depressive symptoms at younger ages may have an impact on the primary prevention of having a stroke in later life. The final study returns in part to the earlier work (studies 1 &2) and explores depression with personality (Neuroticism) and self-perception. Higher levels of neuroticism were statistically significantly related to more negative self perceptions, more stringent self expectations, and greater discrepancy between actual and ideal self perception across multiple domains of behaviour and feelings. Overall, the results of this research program show how personality can influence stress and depression, and that there are numerous long-term health (including mental health) consequences to suffering from depression.
Date of AwardMar 2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorClare Wilson (Supervisor)

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