Failure to cope with stress at work has been linked with a range of physical health problems such as gastrointestinal malfunction, musculo-skeletal problems and cardiovascular diseases as well as psychological problems such as anxiety, depression and burn out. Stress is a function of the relationship between an individual and his/her environment and individual differences can play an important part in this. One factor that is thought to be important in this is negative affectivity. People high in negative affectivity are more likely to report negative mood and emotional reactivity, have a negative view of themselves, have higher levels of emotionality and focus more on the negative aspects of situations. A study of 256 students in Australia measured their levels of negative affectivity and gave them tasks to do to see how well they coped with stress. They were given different amounts of time to do the task (high and low demand) and different amounts of freedom in the way they approached it (high and low control). Those participants with higher levels of negative affectivity had higher levels of post-task negative mood in response to high-demand conditions and had lower task satisfaction in response to high demand/low control situations. Participants with high levels of negative affectivity were more likely to use emotion-focused coping strategies such as minimizing the emotional threat posed by the stressor, wishful thinking and self-blame rather than problem-focused coping strategies.
O'Brien, Anne, Terry, Deborah J. and Jimmieson, Nerina L. - Negative affectivity and responses to work stressors: an experimental study Anxiety, stress and coping January 2008, 21(1), 55-83