We experience levels of depression for many different reasons. We know depression is influenced by a number of events and experiences, but is depression onset by actual important events and experiences or our reaction to them? Humans reacting to important events and experiences are historical, but current high rates of depression are not. So what is happening now that is different? It may be how we react that is different. For example, if we think the birth of a child as an important event, we will often react. Reactions to birth can be positive or negative, but both increase stress. If the birth of a child is not seen as an important event, then it will not result in stress. Reacting to important events and experiences with stress might effect depression. To some degree, everyone experiences important events and experiences. Since we cannot avoid important events and experiences, we need to better understand stress and depression.
The stress process model is a theory that argues depression is caused by stress (Pearlin et al., 1981). The stress process model has been used for the past twenty years on hypotheses concerning mental health, family, neighborhoods, and psychiatric disorders (Pearlin et al., 1981, Aneshensel et al. 1991, Cohen, 1995, Thoits 2012). But when the stress process theory is used in articles, it is not defined or given scope conditions (Pearlin et al., 1981, Aneshensel et al. 1991, Cohen, 1995, Thoits 2012). The theory has been tested using surveys, secondary data analysis, and interviews; but the findings are questionable since the theory is applied without scope conditions.
One researcher has contested the stress process model’s reliability (Hobfoll 1985). Hobfoll argues that the theory is unclear and that findings are not theoretical (1985). For example, Hobfoll argues that articles applying the theory use “important events,” “important experiences,” “important participation,” and “important incidents” interchangeably (Pearlin et al., 1981, Aneshensel et al. 1991, Cohen, 1995, Thoits 2012).