Stress & stressors

Negative life events


Contact: Hannie Comijs

Older adults are at increased risk of experiencing stressful life events such as severe disease or death of a beloved one, relocation (e.g. to a nursing home), or hospital admission. Stressful events may negatively affect a broad range of domains of functioning, including emotional (Kraaij, Arensman, & Spinhoven, 2002), cognitive (Ritchie et al., 2011), physical (Krause, 1998), and social functioning (Savikko, Routasalo, Tilvis, Strandberg, & Pitkälä, 2005), and disease (Schafer & Ferraro, 2012). Moreover, they are important contributors to the development of psychopathology, especially depression (Van Praag, et al., 2005).

Measurement instrument in LASA

Negative life events were assessed with a selection of life events from the life event inventory developed by Tennant and Andrews (1976). The life event inventory was based on sixty-seven life events, which were scored by a sample taken from an Australian urban population. Participants score these life events according to i) the expected level of psychological distress, and ii) the expected life change resulting from the event. Item weights varied between 1 (marked financial improvement) and 83 (death of spouse) (Tennant & Andrews, 1976).


The items used in the LASA data collection were selected according to the following criteria: the event is not yet reported in another part of the questionnaire (e.g., death of spouse), the event is likely to occur relatively frequently in the population (e.g., having a baby is unlikely), and the event scores relatively high on the distress and life change scales in the Tennant and Andrews (1976) study. In LASA, respondents were asked whether the following events had occurred in the three-year time interval prior to the interview: death of a parent, sibling, child, or grandchild. Illness of partner or other relative. Being a victim of crime, having severe conflict, or having financial problems. Widowhood and divorce (z010), and relocation (014) can be obtained from other parts of the LASA questionnaire.


Information on earlier living conditions and childhood events available from LSN

For the first cohort (started in 1992), information about several living conditions during the respondents’ earlier lives is available (LSNA067). The periods (start and stop ages) during which these conditions applied were asked. These records have previously been recoded to variables expressing: number of years in military service; number of years in unemployment; number of years in occupational disability; years worked as homemaker (Kok et al., 2017). A syntax for computing these variables is available here (LASAz004 is also required for this).


Additionally, an item asking for the occurrence of “a significant life event in youth” is available (LSN020; aevent and aevent_t). The answers to this question have been categorised into: war experiences, physical problems, death of a parent, other deaths, alcohol use by respondent, alcohol use of intimates, discord between parents, discord with parents, other problems at home, sexual abuse, educational events, employment events, unemployment, poverty, or other. The respondent also indicated whether the impact of this event was positive, negative, or unclear (aevent_i).


LASAC272 / LASAD272 / LASAE272 / LASAF272 / LASAG272 / LASAH272 / LASAI272 (main interview: in Dutch);

LSN(a)020; LSN(a)067 (for more information:


Variable information
LASAC272, LASAD272, LASAE272, LASAF272, LASAG272, LASAH272 / LASAI272 (LASAI272 in preparation)
LSN(a)020; LSN(a)067 (for more information:

Availability of information per wave 1
















Life events questionnaire













Earlier living conditions



Significant childhood events



1 More information about the LASA data collection waves is available here.

* A=obtained in study on Living Arrangements and Social Networks of Older Adults (LSN);
   B=baseline first cohort;
   2B=baseline second cohort;
   3B=baseline third cohort;
   MB=migrants: baseline first cohort

Ma=data collected in main interview

Previous use in LASA
The association between life events and psychological well-being (depression and anxiety) has been studied in LASA by De Beurs et al. (2000, 2001), and the association between life events and cognitive functioning by Comijs et al. (2011). In addition, the interaction between early negative life events and recent negative life events with respect to depression has been investigated (Comijs et al. 2007) and with respect to cognitive decline (Van den Berg et al. 2010, Korten et al. 2014). Other studies with negative life events concerned the influence of negative life events on residential mobility (Bloem et al. 2008) and physical activity ( al. 2012). Furthermore, Kok et al. (2017) studied the effects of socioeconomic position and life events in childhood and adulthood (including items from LSN) on Successful Aging.

  • Bloem, B.A., van Tilburg, T.G., Thomése, G.C.F. (2008). Residential mobility in older Dutch adults: Influence of later life events. International Journal of Ageing and Later Life, 1, 3: 21-44.
  • Comijs, H.C., Beekman, A.T.F., Smit, F., van Tilburg, T., & Deeg, D.J.H. (2007). The association between recent life events and depressive symptoms in older persons and the interaction with early events. Journal of Affective Disorder,. 103(1-3): 243-246.
  • Comijs, H.C., van den Kommer, T.N., Minnaar, R.W.M., Penninx, B.W.J.H., Deeg, D.J.H. (2011). Accumulated and differential effects of life events on cognitive decline in older persons: depending on depression, baseline cognition, or ApoE ε4 status? The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 66B (S1), i111-i120.
  • De Beurs, E., Beekman, A.T.F., Deeg, D.J.H., van Dyck, R., & van Tilburg W. (2000). Predictors of change in anxiety symptoms of older persons: Results from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. Psychological Medicine, 30: 515-527.
  • De Beurs, E., Beekman, A.T.F., Geerlings, S.W., Deeg, D.J.H., van Dyck, R., & van Tilburg, W. (2001). On becoming depressed or anxious in late life: Similar vulnerability factors but different effects of stressful life events. British Journal of Psychiatry, 179, 426-431.
  • Koeneman, M.A., Chinapaw, M.J.M, Verheijden, M.W., van Tilburg, T.G., Visser, M., Deeg, D.J.H., Hopman-Rock, M. (2012). Do major life events influence physical activity among older adults: the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 17;9:147.
  • Kok, A.A.L., Aartsen, M.J., Deeg, D., & Huisman, M. (2017). The effects of socioeconomic position and life events in childhood and adulthood on successful aging. The Journal of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 72(2), 268-278.
  • Korten, N.C.M., Penninx, B.W.J.H., Pot, A.M., Deeg, D.J.H., Comijs, H.C. (2014). Adverse childhood and recent negative life events: contrasting associations with cognitive decline in older persons. Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology, 27: 128-138.
  • Van den Berg, G.J., Deeg, D.J.H., Lindeboom, M., Portrait, F.R.M. (2010). The role of early-life conditions in the cognitive decline due to adverse events later in life. The Economic Journal, 120, F411–F428.



  1. Kraaij, V., Arensman, E., & Spinhoven, P. (2002). Negative life events and depression in elderly persons: a meta-analysis. The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 57(1), P87–P94.
  2. Krause, N. (1998). Early Parental Loss, Recent Life Events, and Changes in Health Among Older Adults. Journal of Aging and Health, 10(4), 395–421.
  3. Ritchie, K., Jaussent, I., Stewart, R., Dupuy, A. M., Courtet, P., Malafosse, A., & Ancelin, M. L. (2011). Adverse childhood environment and late-life cognitive functioning. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(5), 503–510.
  4. Savikko, N., Routasalo, P., Tilvis, R. S., Strandberg, T. E., & Pitkälä, K. H. (2005). Predictors and subjective causes of loneliness in an aged population. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 41(3), 223–233.
  5. Schafer, M. H., & Ferraro, K. F. (2012). Childhood misfortune as a threat to successful aging: Avoiding disease. Gerontologist, 52(1), 111–120.
  6. Tennant, C., & Andrews, G. (1976). A scale to measure the stress of life events. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 10, 27–32.