Stress. Anxiety, Depression. All of these can motivate a person to seek massage therapy—and new research shows all of them are linked to traumatic life events. Additionally, the study shows that how much stress a person experiences is related to how her coping skills and thoughts about the stress.

The study found that traumatic life events were the single biggest determinant of anxiety and depression, followed by a family history of mental illness, which was followed by income and education levels.

It also found that how a person thinks about stressful life events determines the level of stress he experiences.

Study participants were asked a range of questions about their family history of mental health problems, life events, income and education levels, relationship status and social circumstances. It also asked participants about how they responded to stressful situations; for example, if they talked to friends about their problems, if they turned to alcohol to reduce stress, or if they blamed themselves.

“While we know that a person’s genetics and life circumstances contribute to mental health problems, the results showed that traumatic life events are the main reason people suffer from anxiety and depression,” said Professor Peter Kinderman, Head of the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society at the University of Liverpool, England, who lead the research. “However, the way a person thinks about, and deals with, stressful events is as much an indicator of the level of stress and anxiety they feel.”

While a person’s family history or their life experiences can’t be changed, he added, “it is possible to help a person to change the way they think and to teach them positive coping strategies that can mitigate and reduce stress levels.”

Click here to read the complete study.