Short-Term Effects of Fluctuations in Self-Esteem, Perceived Stress and Loneliness on Depressive States


  • Lisa Di Blas University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy
  • Matteo Borella University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy
  • Donatella Ferrante University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy


depression; self-esteem; fluctuations; dynamics; diathesis-stress model


Depression depends on risk factors such as loneliness, low self-esteem, and perceived stress when inter-individual differences are investigated in the long run. Depression, however, oscillates withinperson over short-time periods as well, but there is a lack of evidence on its temporary correlates. The present study explored how transitory feelings of depression covariate with states of loneliness, stress, and self-esteem at the within-person level, further inspecting how inter-individual differences contribute to understanding intra-individual dynamics. Seventy-four adults (M = 33 years) took part in the study and reported on daily depression, stress, loneliness, and self-esteem for eight successive evenings. The main results showed that within-person fluctuations in depression depended on transient changes in loneliness, self-esteem, and stress, with stress further moderating the depression-self-esteem association; the link between depression and its predictors was reciprocal; inter-individual differences in depression instability across the assessment occasions enhanced the effect of transitory loneliness on feelings of depression. The present findings revealed that withinperson associations for depression reflect correlation patterns between people, further highlighting how an individual’s instability in depressive states is relevant for understanding who is more vulnerable to transitory depressive states, which might develop into trait-like conditions over longer time periods.