The impact of life events on adult physical and mental health and well-being: Longitudinal analysis using the GoWell health and well-being survey

Claire Cleland*, Ade Kearns, Carol Tannahill, Anne Ellaway

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: It is recognised that life events (LEs) which have been defined as incidents necessitating adjustment to habitual life either permanently or temporarily, not only have the potential to be detrimental to health and well-being, but research suggests some LEs may be beneficial. This study aimed to determine the individual and cumulative occurrence of LEs; and to establish their effect on health and well-being. Results: Demographic factors (gender, age and highest educational attainment), LE occurrence and self-reported health data were collected as part of the longitudinal GoWell community health and wellbeing survey (2008-2011). Self-reported health was measured using the SF-12 questionnaire for physical (SF-12 PCS) and mental health (SF-12 MCS) and the Warwick-Edinburgh mental well-being scale (WEMWBS) for well-being. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSSv21 and level of significance was set at p < 0.05. Results showed that the sample was 61.6 % (n = 768) female; 20.4 % (n = 254) were aged 16-39 years, 46.1 % (n = 575) 40-64 years and 33.5 % (n = 418) were over 65 years; 68.8 % (n = 819) had no qualifications/Scottish leaving certificates, with the remaining 31.2 % (n = 372) having their highest educational qualification above Scottish leaving certificates. Health score means were 49.3 SF-12 mental health component score (SF-12 MCS); 42.1 SF-12 physical health component score (SF-12 PCS); and 49.2 WEMWBS. Participants experienced 0-7 LEs over a three year period, with the most common being: housing improvement (44.9 %), house move (36.8 %), health event (26.3 %) and bereavement (25.0 %). Overall, an increase in LEs was associated with a health score decrease. Five LEs (relationship breakdown, health event, bereavement, victimisation and house move) had negative impacts on SF-12 MCS and two (new job/promotion and parenthood) had positive impacts. For SF-12 PCS only three (health event, bereavement and housing improvement) had a negative impact. Six (health event, victimisation, bereavement, relationship breakdown housing move and improvement) had negative impacts on well-being and two (new job/promotion, marriage) had positive effects. Conclusions: Findings from the current study confirm LEs have both detrimental and beneficial impacts on health and well-being. Further research is required to disentangle the complexity of LEs and the ways they affect health and well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Article number470
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Research Notes
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2016


  • GoWell
  • Life events
  • Longitudinal analysis
  • Mental health
  • Mental well-being
  • Physical health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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