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What Predicts Positive Life Events that Influence the Course of Depression? A Longitudinal Examination of Gratitude and Meaning in Life

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Decades of research have shown that positive life events contribute to the remission and recovery of depression; however, it is unclear how positive life events are generated. In this study, we sought to understand if personality strengths could predict positive life events that aid in the alleviation of depression. We tested a longitudinal mediation model where gratitude and meaning in life lead to increased positive life events and, in turn, decreased depression. The sample consisted of 797 adult participants from 43 different countries who completed online surveys at five timepoints. Higher levels of gratitude and meaning in life each predicted decreases in depression over 3 and 6 months time. Increases in positive life events mediated the effects of these personality strengths on depression over 3 months; however, not over 6 months. Goal pursuit and positive emotions are theorized to be the driving forces behind gratitude and meaning in life’s effects on positive life events. We used the hedonic treadmill to interpret the short-term impact of positive life events on depression. Our findings suggest the potential for gratitude and meaning in life interventions to facilitate depression remission.
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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
What Predicts Positive Life Events that Influence the Course
of Depression? A Longitudinal Examination of Gratitude
and Meaning in Life
David J. Disabato
1
Todd B. Kashdan
1
Jerome L. Short
1
Aaron Jarden
2
Published online: 30 May 2016
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media New York 2016
Abstract Decades of research have shown that positive
life events contribute to the remission and recovery of
depression; however, it is unclear how positive life events
are generated. In this study, we sought to understand if
personality strengths could predict positive life events that
aid in the alleviation of depression. We tested a longitu-
dinal mediation model where gratitude and meaning in life
lead to increased positive life events and, in turn, decreased
depression. The sample consisted of 797 adult participants
from 43 different countries who completed online surveys
at five timepoints. Higher levels of gratitude and meaning
in life each predicted decreases in depression over 3 and
6 months time. Increases in positive life events mediated
the effects of these personality strengths on depression over
3 months; however, not over 6 months. Goal pursuit and
positive emotions are theorized to be the driving forces
behind gratitude and meaning in life’s effects on positive
life events. We used the hedonic treadmill to interpret the
short-term impact of positive life events on depression. Our
findings suggest the potential for gratitude and meaning in
life interventions to facilitate depression remission.
Keywords Depression Positive life events Gratitude
Meaning in life
Introduction
Depression is the fourth leading cause of disability in the
world in terms of economic, societal, and interpersonal
costs (Kessler 2012). Across 18 countries, the respective
lifetime and yearly prevalence rates of major depressive
disorder are 14.6 and 5.5 % in high-income countries, and
11.1 and 5.9 % in low- to middle-income countries (Bro-
met et al. 2011). Individuals that struggle with depression
symptoms experience a higher probability of educational
dropout, divorce, and unemployment. On average, indi-
viduals with depression are impaired nearly 30 % of their
time in specific life roles (e.g., job) leading to less work
productivity and a loss of human capital estimated between
$44.0 and $51.5 billion (Alonso et al. 2010; Greenberg
et al. 2003; Stewart et al. 2003).
Depression Remission Factors
Approximately 20 % of individuals with depression spon-
taneously remit, or experience significant decreases in
symptoms, without any formal treatment (Posternak and
Miller 2001). Predictors of remission from depressive epi-
sodes include lower levels of negative life events, hope-
lessness, self-blame, neuroticism, worrying, and
interpersonal dependency as well as greater self-esteem
(Scott et al. 1992;Iacovielloetal.2013; Johnson et al. 2007;
Kessler 1997). To better understand how people remit from
depression, researchers can explore factors that predict
decreased depressive symptoms over time. Learning about
and changing remission factors could empower clinicians
and individuals to reduce the length of major depressive
episodes and prevent chronic depression (Dozois and Dob-
son 2004; Pettit and Joiner 2006; Lara and Klein 1999).
&Todd B. Kashdan
tkashdan@gmu.edu
1
George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA
2
Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand
123
Cogn Ther Res (2017) 41:444–458
DOI 10.1007/s10608-016-9785-x
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... Prior studies have generally focused on the impact of gratitude on well-being via meaning in life (Datu & Mateo, 2015;Disabato et al., 2017;Liao & Weng, 2018;Oriol et al., 2020), but did not expound the link between gratitude and meaning in life despite the many commonalities between them. Similar to meaning in life, gratitude is strongly related to integration (Algoe et al., 2008;Jia et al., 2014Jia et al., , 2015, and connectedness is a common theme to both of them (Delle Fave & Soosai-Nathan, 2014; Hlava & Elfers, 2014). ...
... Secondly, among related-patterned and related-individuated participants, gratitude had a positive direct effect but no indirect effect on PofM. Although a relationship between gratitude and PofM has been reported previously (Disabato et al., 2017;Liao & Weng, 2018;Oriol et al., 2020), this study extends these prior results by demonstrating the impact of gratitude on PofM by isolating the effect of relatedness, the most significant outcome of gratitude. Thus, this finding supports the hypothesis that gratitude influences meaning in life by engendering mattering. ...
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... Autores como Schulenberg, Hutzell, Nassif y Rogina (2008) han investigado las relaciones entre logoterapia y algunas fortalezas del carácter que tienen relación con el sentido de la vida como la gratitud o la esperanza, virtudes que permiten afrontar las distintas situaciones que surgen a lo largo de la vida con una actitud positiva. Por un lado, se encuentran multitud de artículos que han estudiado la relación entre la gratitud y aquellos trastornos máximamente presentes en la mayoría de la población, y que manifiestan el sufrimiento humano, como depresión, ansiedad o consumo de sustancias (Chen, 2017;Disabato, Kashdan, Short y Jarden, 2017;Krentzman, 2017;Petrocchi y Couyoumdjian, 2016). Por otro lado, la gratitud correlaciona positivamente con un aumento del bienestar personal y social (p. ...
... Current research generally regards gratitude as an emotional trait (Rosenberg, 1998;McCullough et al., 2002). Generation of gratitude depends on the individual being able to recognize the value and meaning of the object of gratitude (Adler and Fagley, 2005;Disabato et al., 2017). Individuals with high gratitude tendencies have a higher perception of the purpose and meaning of life (Wood et al., 2008;Lin, 2021). ...
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... As an effective protective factor, meaning in life can reduce psychological distress and promote mental health. People who lack meaning of life will experience more loneliness, anxiety and depression (Disabato, Kashdan, Short, & Jarden, 2017;Germani, Delvecchio, Li, Lis, & Mazzeschi, 2021;Q.Y. Yu, Wang, Wu, & Tian, 2021;Y.J. Yu, Yu, & Hu, 2022;. ...
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