Stability under normal environmental conditions over a long period of time is crucial for sustainable thin-film device performance. Pure ZnO films with thicknesses in the 140 - 450 nm range were deposited on amorphous glass microscope slides and (100)-oriented single crystal silicon wafers by radio frequency magnetron sputtering. The depositions were performed at a starting temperature of 200 oC. ZnO films had a columnar microstructure strongly textured along the <0002> direction. XRD peak-shift analysis revealed that the films were under residual, compressive, in-plane stress of -5.46 GPa for the glass substrate and -6.69 GPa for the Si substrate. These residual stresses could be completely relaxed by thermal annealing in air. When left under normal environmental condition over an extended period of time the films failed under buckling leading to extensive cracking of the films. The XRD and SEM results indicated different mechanisms of stress relaxation that were favored in the ZnO thin films depending on the energy provided. Although thermal annealing eliminated residual stresses, serious micro-structural damage upon annealing was observed. Thermal annealing also led to preferential growth of some ZnO crystals in the films. This kind of behavior is believed to be indicative of stress-induced directional diffusion of ZnO. It appears that for the extended stability of the films, the stresses have to be eliminated during deposition.