Anxious or Depressed and Still Happy?

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Source:

Plos One, Volume 10 (2015)

Other Number:

10.1371/journal.pone.013

Keywords:

neuroticism; extraversion; anxiety; depression; happiness; subjective well-being

Abstract:

This study aimed to examine cross-sectionally to what extent persons with higher symptom levels or a current or past emotional disorder report to be less happy than controls and to assess prospectively whether time-lagged measurements of extraversion and neuroticism predict future happiness independent of time-lagged measurements of emotional disorders or symptom severity. A sample of 2142 adults aged 18-65, consisting of healthy controls and persons with current or past emotional disorder according to DSM-IV criteria completed self-ratings for happiness and emotional well-being and symptom severity. Lagged measurements of personality, symptom severity and presence of anxiety and depressive disorder at T0 (year 0), T2 (year 2) and T4 (year 4) were used to predict happiness and emotional well-being at T6 (year 6) controlling for demographics. In particular persons with more depressive symptoms, major depressive disorder, social anxiety disorder and comorbid emotional disorders reported lower levels of happiness and emotional well-being. Depression symptom severity and to a lesser extent depressive disorder predicted future happiness and emotional well-being at T6. Extraversion and to a lesser extent neuroticism also consistently forecasted future happiness and emotional well-being independent of concurrent lagged measurements of emotional disorders and symptoms. A study limitation is that we only measured happiness and emotional well-being at T6 and our measures were confined to hedonistic well-being and did not include psychological and social well-being. In sum, consistent with the two continua model of emotional well-being and mental illness, a 'happy' personality characterized by high extraversion and to a lesser extent low neuroticism forecasts future happiness and emotional well-being independent of concurrently measured emotional disorders or symptom severity levels. Boosting positive emotionality may be an important treatment goal for persons personally inclined to lower levels of happiness.