How Do Different Factors Moderate Depressive Symptoms?

Researchers often examine the mediating and moderating effects of various psychological states and symptoms on other psychological conditions. For example, studies into anxiety often explore how threat and fear states moderate or mediate anxious symptoms. Likewise, many studies have been conducted using mediation and moderation analyses for depressive symptoms. To add to this literature, Ali Al Nima of the Department of Psychology at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden recently led a new study that looked specifically at the interplay between affect, stress, and anxiety in relation to depression.

For the study, Nima enlisted 202 college students and had them complete surveys designed to evaluate their levels of self-esteem, stress, anxiety, negative and positive affect, and depression. Nima focused on if and how anxiety mediated the effects of the other symptoms on depression and also if stress mediated the effects of the remaining symptoms on depression as well. Finally, Nima looked at how stress, affect, self-esteem, and anxiety moderated any depressive symptoms.

The findings revealed that anxiety had a mediating affect for self-esteem and for stress on symptoms of depression. Further, stress also had a mediating affect for both positive affect and anxiety on depressive symptoms. Additionally, it was revealed that stress fully mediated any influence that self-esteem had on depression.

Nima also examined how stress and different affective states impacted depression. In this regard, Nima found that negative and positive affect both influenced depressive symptoms significantly and that stress directly impacted negative affect. Overall, these findings demonstrate unique relationships between various factors related to and predictive of depression.

From this study, we can also gain insight into what psychological states and symptoms could put someone at increased risk for depression or exacerbation of depressive symptoms. These findings also provide new direction and information for research into depression. Al Nami added, “The study highlights different research questions that can be investigated depending on whether researchers decide to use the same variables as mediators and/or moderators.”

Nima, A.A., Rosenberg, P., Archer, T., Garcia, D. (2013). Anxiety, affect, self-esteem, and stress: Mediation and moderation effects on depression. PLoS ONE 8(9): e73265. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0073265

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