Inpatients, day patients, outpatients, and nonpatients on initial clinical contact were asked to report on their symptoms over the past week and the events in their lives over the past year employing instruments that yielded quantitative indices of symptom intensity and life stress. Patients exhibited higher stress scores than nonpatients even with adjustments for other demographic variables.
Among outpatients and day patients (but not inpatients) symptom intensity was related positively to stress scores even with adjustments for other demographic variables. Women reported symptom intensities about 25% higher than men. Stress scores in the full sample were distributed among various demographic categories in close relationship to indices of psychiatric disturbance as found in previous epidemiologic studies. Differing exposures to life stress may account for demographic differences in psychiatric disturbance in a significant way.