Boelen, P. A. (2010). Intolerance of uncertainty and emotional distress following the death of a loved one. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 23, 463-470.


Research has shown that intolerance of uncertainty (IU)—the tendency to react negatively to situations that are uncertain—is involved in worry and generalized anxiety disorder, as well as in other anxiety symptoms and disorders. To our knowledge, no studies have yet examined the association between IU and emotional distress connected with the death of a loved one. Yet, it seems plausible that those who have more difficulties to tolerate the uncertainties that oftentimes occur following such a loss experience more intense distress. The current study examined this assumption, using self-reported data from 134 bereaved individuals. Findings showed that IU was positively and significantly correlated with symptom-levels of complicated grief and posttraumatic stress-disorder (PTSD), even when controlling for time since loss (the single demographic/loss-related variable associated with symptom-levels), and for neuroticism and worry, which are both correlates of IU. Furthermore, IU was specifically related with worry and symptom-levels of PTSD, but not complicated grief, when controlling the shared variance between worry, complicated grief severity, and PTSD-severity. The present findings complement prior research that has shown that IU is a cognitive vulnerability factor for worry, and indicate that it may also be involved in emotional distress following loss.