Anger, anxiety, depression, and negative affect: Convergent or divergent?

Thomas W.H. Ng*, Kelly L. Sorensen, Ying Zhang, Frederick H K YIM

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Anger, anxiety, depression, and negative affect have been examined frequently as indicators of employees' subjective well-being. Some researchers have adopted a convergence perspective, assuming these four variables as interchangeable. Others use a divergence perspective, treating each of the four as a distinct emotion. The goal of this study was to directly compare anger, anxiety, depression, and negative affect and examine whether the nomological network of these four emotional variables converges or diverges. We offer theoretical arguments for both the convergence and divergence hypotheses and use meta-analytical data based on 491 studies (N = 235,085) to examine which hypothesis receives stronger support. The results show that (a) anger, anxiety, depression, and negative affect were strongly correlated with one another, (b) the corrected correlations of these variables with workplace stressors and outcomes were similar (although some differences also existed), and (c) these variables, in the presence of one another, did not explain unique variance in some study correlates. These results appear to more strongly support the convergence hypothesis, and call for more work on how negative emotions should be integrated into vocational behavior research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-202
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Vocational Behavior
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Education
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

User-Defined Keywords

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Meta-analysis
  • Negative affect


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