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Gratitude is held in high esteem by virtually in every society. From ancient religious scriptures through modern
social science research, gratitude is viewed as a desirable human characteristic with the capacity for making life
better for oneself and for others. Gratitude as an action may be in response to something either material (e.g., gift) or
non-material (e.g., a spiritual or emotional experience). In this context, the present research was designed to study
gratitude among young adults. For this purpose, data was collected from 80 young adults with equal number of
males and females and were administered Gratitude Questionnaire-6 (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002) and
General Health Questionnaire-12 (Goldberg & Williams, 1988). Group differences were analyzed by t-test; Pearson
product moment method of correlation and multiple regression analyses were also performed. Results revealed
significant gender differences on gratitude, i.e. females showing high level of gratitude, however, differences were
not significant on two dimensions of health. Significant negative correlation was observed between gratitude and
dimensions of health i.e. depression/anxiety, social dysfunction. Overall health scores yielded significant but
negative correlation with gratitude. Gratitude was significantly predicted by overall mental health for the total
sample, explaining the role of gratitude as positive emotion in promoting mental health. Thus, highlighting the
benefits of being grateful in maintaining the quality of life among the young adults.
Keywords: gratitude, health, gender, young adults
positive in the world. This positive orientation can be negative
Expression of thankfulness and gratitude is a virtue. While
correlated with depressive orientation toward the negative in the
thankfulness is expressed in words, Gratitude is shown in act and
self, world, and the future (Beck, 1976).
deeds so it can be said that thankfulness is beginning and gratitude is
end. Cicero regarded gratitude not only as “the greatest of the virtues Gratitude may also described as feeling of thankfulness that
but the parent of all others”. The word gratitude, derived from the emerges through social exchange between the helpers and
Latin root gratia, which produces words such as “grace,” “grateful,” beneficiaries. Beneficiaries' experiences gratitude when they
and “gracious.” All derivatives in the Latin language “have to do with attribute their favorable circumstances to the helper and express by
kindness, generosity, gifts, the beauty of giving and receiving, or thanking helper for their contribution
getting something for nothing” (Pruyser, 1976, p 69). Gratitude is a Gratitude and psychological functioning in young adults: Empirical
genuine, deep appreciation of a benefit one has received. Gratitude evidences have demonstrated links between gratitude and enhanced
consists two unique parts: the perception that one has received a psychological functioning in adults, including both lower levels of
positive outcome, and the perception that this positive outcome is mental health problems and higher levels of positive indicators of
due to the intentional actions of another (Peterson & Seligman, 2004; mental health. McCullough, Emmons, and Tsang (2002) reported
Emmons & McCullough, 2003). The word gratitude has a different significant negative correlations in the small to moderate range
meaning, depending upon the context for example gratitude has been between a grateful disposition and negative affect, symptoms of
conceptualized as a moral virtue, an attitude, an emotion, a habit, a anxiety, and depression among undergraduate psychology students.
personality trait and a coping response (Lembert, Graham, Fincham, Moreover, the relationship between higher levels of gratitude and
& Stillman, 2009). lower levels of anxiety remained significant even after controlling
Fredrickson (2004) emphasizes that gratitude and other positive for positive affectivity and social desirability. In a separate sample of
emotions broaden psychological and social resources and build 156 undergraduate students, the same investigators also found that
lasting personal resources. She notes that, “through experiences of gratitude was negatively correlated with envy and several distinct
positive emotions, individuals can transform themselves, becoming dimensions of materialism.
more creative, knowledgeable, resilient, socially integrated and Watkins, Woodward, Stone, and Kolts (2003) also reported
healthy individuals” (p. 153). significant negative correlations between gratitude and depression
Wood, Maltby, Stewart, and Joseph (2008) explained that across three different samples of undergraduate psychology
dispositional gratitude involves individual difference in how students. Within a given sub-sample, these researchers found that
frequently and intensely people experience the emotion of gratitude, gratitude was negatively associated with narcissism, physical
as well as individual differences in the range of events. Dispositional aggression, overall aggression, and hostility. Likewise earlier
gratitude is related to a more positive and appreciative out look research, the relationship between gratitude and negative affectivity
toward life and involves a positive bias in interpreting social was not significant in this research.
situation. Gratitude is perhaps the quintessential positive In a study investigating the daily emotional experiences of adults
psychological trait, as it involves a life orientation toward the with neuromuscular diseases, McCullough, Tsang, and Emmons
(2004) found a significant relationship between mean levels of
gratitude in individuals' daily mood and levels of depression.
Investigators found that participants who reported more feelings of
Gratitude and health among young adults
Correspondence should be sent to Manju Singh
Department of Psychology, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi
Indian Journal of Positive Psychology
2014, 5(4), 465-468
© 2014 Indian Association of Health, Research and Welfare
Manju Singh, Waheeda Khan and Meena Osmany
Department of Psychology, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi
gratefulness on daily basis also reported higher levels of positive n Gratitude would be significantly predicted by general health of
affect, life satisfaction, well being, and optimism. In another study on young adults.
undergraduate students, aged 18-26, Wood, Joseph. and Maltby Method
(2009) found that dispositional gratitude was related to various
aspects of psychological well-being. Participants
Gratitude and health outcomes: Gratitude interventions have been
The sample of 80 college students with equal number of males and
shown to reduce the bodily complaints, increase sleep duration and
females in the age range of 17-22 years (Mean 19.36, SD 1.65), were
efficiency, and promote exercise (Emmons & McCullough, 2003;
selected from various colleges in Meerut city of Uttar Pradesh.
Wood, Maltby, Stewart, & Joseph, 2008). Experimental research
58.3% were from urban background and 41.7% were from semi
suggests that discrete experiences of gratitude and appreciation may
rural areas. Monthly income of most of the families ranged 10,000-
cause increase in parasympathetic myocardial control (McCraty &
Childre, 2004), lower Systolic Blood Pressure (Shipon, 2007), as
well as improvements in more molar aspects of physical health such Instruments
as everyday symptoms and physician visits (Emmons & Gratitude was assessed using Gratitude Questionnaire (GQ-6)
McCullough, 2003). McCraty and Childre (2004) found that developed by McCullough, Emmons, and Tsang, (2002). It is a self-
appreciation increased parasympathetic activity, that helps in report measure rated on a 7-point scale (1= strongly disagree, 7 =
controlling stress Therefore, there might be some direct strongly agree). Two items are reverse-scored to overcome any
physiological benefits to frequently experiencing grateful emotions. response bias. The internal consistency of the scale as reported by
In a series of eight studies on undergraduate student (N=2073), authors is alpha .82, and it is .78 in the present study.
Lambert, Fincham, and Stillman (2011) tested the theory that Goldberg and Williams (1988) 12-item version of General Health
gratitude is related to fewer depression symptoms through positive Questionnaires (GHQ-12) was used to assess health among young
reframing and positive emotion. They found that gratitude decreased adults. It has two dimension 'depression/anxiety and social
(or prevented an increase) in report of depressive symptoms. dysfunction consisted of 6 items respectively. The questions
Gratitude prompts people to reframe otherwise negative experiences compared how the respondents' present state differed from their
as potentially positive experiences. This reframing in turn is related usual state with four point likert scale (0, 1, 2, and 3). Scores for each
to fewer depressive symptoms. Seligman, Steen, Part, and Peterson dimension ranged from 0 to 18 and higher score indicated poorer
(2005) found in adult internet sample, that gratitude visit leads to health. The Alpha coefficient for the present study is .65.
significant gains in happiness and reduction in depression for one
month after the intervention. Procedure
College students have been identified as a population who are in College students were approached for the data collection and the
the midst of facing with various challenges, changes and adversity in purpose of research was clearly explained to them. Consent of
life. This is due to a number of significant life adjustments involved students showing to willingness to participate, was sought and
such as the experience of entering university, transition period to confidentiality assured.
enter adulthood along with the need to assume greater responsibility
in terms of all aspects in life, which might be resulting in higher level Results
of stress and anxiety. Optimal psychological development during To study the gender difference in young adults t test was used,
young adults is important as it contributes to an adaptive transition Pearson product moment methods of correlation and multiple
into adulthood. However, as far as concerned the direct relationship regressions analyses were applied to see the relation among different
between the gratitude and health there are limited number of measures and to see the predictive effect of gratitude on health in
researches and more is required to clarify this relationship in young adults.
Table 1: Gender comparisons on the measures of Gratitude, general
Objectives of the study health and its dimensions. (df=78)
n To assess the gender differences on the measures of gratitude and Measures Groups Mean S.D SeM t-value
general health (depression/anxiety and social dysfunction) young
Gratitude Male 31.55 6.40 1.06 3.13
Female 35.55 4.21 .66 (p<.01)
n To study the relation of gratitude with general health and its
Depression/anxiety Male 6.15 2.42 .56 0.34
dimensions (depression/anxiety and social dysfunction) among
Female 5.97 2.14 .40
male, female and total young adults.
Social Dysfunction Male 7.70 2.17 .34 0.67
n To study the predictive effect of health and its dimensions on Female 7.55 2.15 .34
gratitude in young adults Overall Health Male 13.75 3.57 .38 0.28
Hypotheses of the study Female 13.55 2.58 .33
n Comparison of males and females on the measures of gratitude,
There would be significant gender difference on the measures of
general health and its dimensions are reported in table 1. On the
gratitude, health and its dimensions in young adults.
measures of gratitude significant gender difference were observed
n There would be significant relation between gratitude, general
(t-value=3.13, p<.01), indicating that females showing higher
health and its dimensions in male, female and total sample of
gratitude. However, gender differences were not found to be
significant on the measures of health and its dimensions.
SINGH ET AL./ GRATITUDE AND HEALTH AMONG YOUNG ADULTS 466
Table 2: Coefficient of Correlation between gratitude, general health emotions like gratitude have the potential to build psychological
and its dimensions for male, female and total sample. resources that enhance social bonds and initiate a positive spiral or
cycle for good outcomes and improved overall well-being and helps
Groups N Dimensions of health Overall general in eliminating the negative feelings, (Fredrickson, 2004). Findings
Depression Social of the research are also supported previous study of Seligman, Steen,
/anxiety dysfunction Park, and Peterson (2005), demonstrating that being thankful has
related to less risk for depression, as well as anxiety.
Male 40 -.490** -.515** -.637**
Female 40 -.308 -.477** -.680** Overall health has an influence on gratitude, the multiple R-value
is .624 and the Adjusted R2 is .381, which indicates that 38 %
Total 80 -.407** -.486** -.624**
variation can be explained in the gratitude by overall mental health.
A study by Wood, Joseph, Lloyd, and Atkins (2009) has also
Table 2 presents the summary results of coefficients of correlation reported physical health benefits from gratitude. Although other
between gratitude, health and its dimensions for male, female and factors associated with maintaining good health, for example, yoga,
total sample. For all the three groups, the gratitude was significantly nutritional diet, stress management etc are not controlled and cannot
but negatively correlated with general health and its dimensions generalize the findings, however it may be suggested that to increase
(p<.01), except with the depression/anxiety in female sample. The r- in happiness, decrease in depression and social dysfunction may be
value ranged between .31 to .68, showing low to a moderate relation controlled by being grateful, if gratitude is adopted as an attitude in
between gratitude and health in young adults. life.
Table 3: Summary results of multiple regression analysis of gratitude Conclusion
(criterion) and dimensions of health (predictors) of young adults.
Gratitude is associated with pleasantness and highly desirable life
Predictors Beta-value t-value p-value Remarks outcomes; it is certainly not an easy or automatic response to life
Overall Health -.624 7.64 .001 F= 49.65;df2/78; p <.001 situations. The very fact that gratitude is a virtue suggests that it must
Depression/ .093 .726 .470 R= .624, R =.389 be deliberately cultivated. Like any virtue, it must be taught, or at
anxiety least modeled, and practiced regularly, until it becomes a habit of
Social .107 .880 .382 Adjusted R =.381 character. A grateful person is one who is prone to react to the
Dysfunction goodness of others in a benevolent and receptive fashion,
reciprocating kindness when opportunities arise. Findings of this
In table 3, the summary results of multiple regression (stepwise
study are applicable with certain limitation and there is need to
method) analysis for the criterion variable of gratitude and the health
extend the research in various settings as well as in different cultural
as the predictors are reported. Overall health scores act as negative
predictor (β = -0.624, t = 7.64; p > .001), however, its dimension was
not found significant contributor. The multiple R-value is .624 and References
the Adjusted R2 is .381, which indicates that 38 % variation can be
explained in the gratitude by overall mental health.
The present study explored gender differences on the measures of
gratitude, health and its dimensions. Significant gender differences
were obtained on measures of gratitude, female were found higher on
gratitude, it gets support from previous studies (Krause, 2006;
Kashdan, Mishra, Breen, & Froh, 2009). They also found the similar
result showing that women compared with men seems likely to
experience more gratitude; men both felt and experience less
gratitude. It is possible that men regard the experience and
expression of gratitude as evidence of vulnerability and weakness,
which may threaten their masculinity and social standing (Levant &
Kopecky, 1995). Consequently, men might adopt an avoidance
orientation toward gratitude, showing a preference to conceal rather
than expressing it.
Significant negative relation between gratitude and dimensions of
health was obtained for both the gender. This indicated that there is
positive relation between gratitude and health, i.e., higher the
gratitude; the health will be better. This appears to be overall benefit
for the people who have higher levels of gratitude to their health. The
results of present research are in line with previous studies (Watkins,
Grimm & Kolts, 2004). Another possible explanation for the
relationship between gratitude, health and less depression comes
from the Broaden and Build theory, which suggests that positive
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