Goal linking and everyday worries in clinical work stress: A daily diary study


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Abstract

Objectives.In this study, we tested whether high levels of daily worrying are associated with linking, a tendency to overvalue the attainment of specific lower level goals for attaining higher level goals, and more specifically the attainment of experiencing happiness.Methods.Thirty-two patients suffering from work stress complaints and awaiting a stress management treatment and 31 healthy adults, who formed the comparison group, filled in a goal linking questionnaire and two widely used trait worry questionnaires. Subsequently, they reported the frequency and duration of worry during 14 consecutive days and nights.Results.The patients suffering from work stress complaints scored higher on the linking questionnaire and worried almost twice as much as the healthy comparison group, especially during the night-time. Furthermore, goal linking was a stronger predictor of the frequency and duration of worry in daily life than the trait worry questionnaires and this was independent of the observed group differences in daily worry.Conclusions.These findings provide evidence that people who believe that their happiness is strongly dependent on the attainment of specific lower level goals worry frequently in daily life. Linking seems to be at least partly responsible for the excessive worry found in high work stress.Practitioner points.Worry is elevated in patients seeking professional help for work stress complaints, compared to healthy controlsThe higher levels of worry in the patient group were related to elevated tendencies to overvalue the attainment of specific lower level goals as a means to attain higher level goals (‘linking’).It could be beneficial for high worriers to learn how to reduce linking tendencies.No strong inferences on the direction of the association between worry and linking can be made, as we relied on correlational data in which a linking questionnaire predicted worry in daily life.

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