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Efficacy of acts of kindness : examining effects on depressive symptoms and mental well-being and the mediating role of positive and negative emotions.

Ekrod, Sophie (2019) Efficacy of acts of kindness : examining effects on depressive symptoms and mental well-being and the mediating role of positive and negative emotions.

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Abstract:Background: The efficacy of several positive psychological interventions on depressive symptoms and mental well-being has been demonstrated in the past years. One specific intervention which receives considerable interest in this field is “acts of kindness”. It is proven to positively impact mental well-being. However, little attention is given to the possible effects on depressive symptoms, as this is one of the most prevalent disorders nowadays. In addition, little is known about the working mechanisms of performing acts of kindness. Positive and negative emotions seem to play a role while engaging in prosocial behaviour. This study aims to 1) examine the effectiveness of performing acts of kindness on depressive symptoms and mental well-being, 2) examine the mediating role of negative emotions on the effect of acts of kindness on depressive symptoms and 3) to examine the mediating role of positive emotions on the effect of acts of kindness on mental well-being. Method: Within an RCT design, 169 participants were randomly assigned to the experimental condition (performing acts of kindness, n = 85) or to a waitlist control condition (n = 84). Participants in the experimental condition were asked to perform five acts of kindness on one day per week, during the six-week intervention, while recording these acts in an online diary. At pre- and posttest, depressive symptoms, mental well-being and positive/negative emotions were measured. Additionally, positive and negative emotions were measured during the intervention (at 2- and 4-weeks). Mixed ANOVA analyses and Cohen’s d effect sizes were calculated to estimate the effectiveness of acts of kindness on depressive symptoms and mental well-being. Simple mediation analyses were performed to assess whether changes in negative emotions during the intervention serve as a mediator of the relationship between acts of kindness and depressive symptoms and whether changes of positive emotions during the intervention serve as a mediator of the relationship between acts of kindness and mental well-being. Results: 1) Mixed ANOVA analyses revealed that performing acts of kindness leads to small improvements in depressive symptoms and mental well-being. Significant differences between the two conditions on these variables could be observed at posttest. 2) The simple mediation analyses demonstrated that a decrease in negative emotions significantly mediated the effect of prosocial behaviour on depressive symptoms. 3) However, positive emotions did not mediate the effect of performing acts of kindness on mental well-being. Conclusion: The results of this study contribute to positive psychological research by proving that performing acts of kindness improves depressive symptoms and mental well-being and that the effect on depressive symptoms could be explained by a decrease of negative emotions. Implications for future research and practise are provided, for example promoting prosocial behaviour in the mental health sector and making it applicable across disorders.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/78006
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