Stressful life transitions and wellbeing: A comparison of the stress buffering hypothesis and the social identity model of identity change

Nurul F. Praharso, Morgan J. Tear, Tegan Cruwys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


The relationship between stressful life transitions and wellbeing is well established, however, the protective role of social connectedness has received mixed support. We test two theoretical models, the Stress Buffering Hypothesis and the Social Identity Model of Identity Change, to determine which best explains the relationship between social connectedness, stress, and wellbeing. Study 1 (N=165) was an experiment in which participants considered the impact of moving cities versus receiving a serious health diagnosis. Study 2 (N=79) was a longitudinal study that examined the adjustment of international students to university over the course of their first semester. Both studies found limited evidence for the buffering role of social support as predicted by the Stress Buffering Hypothesis; instead people who experienced a loss of social identities as a result of a stressor had a subsequent decline in wellbeing, consistent with the Social Identity Model of Identity Change. We conclude that stressful life events are best conceptualised as identity transitions. Such events are more likely to be perceived as stressful and compromise wellbeing when they entail identity loss.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-275
Number of pages11
JournalPsychiatry Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Multiple group membership
  • Social identity
  • Social support
  • Stress

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