Affect is closely associated with a number of different psychological and somatic conditions. With relation to mood disorders such as depression, affect can often be a direct predictor of symptom severity, persistence, and remission. Positive affect (PA) describes one’s ability to hold a positive view about situations and circumstances. Individuals with high levels of PA may find it easier to be optimistic about their treatment prognosis than those with low levels of PA.
Recently, the persistence of PA has emerged as a topic of research in the study on depression. How a person transfers momentary positive affect to daily life could predict their depression outcome. This persistence of PA was the subject of a recent study conducted by Petra Hohn of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at the School for Mental Health and Nueroscience at Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands. For the study, Hohn chose to examine the outcomes from three separate studies, two involving nonmedicinal treatment and one involving treatment with medication.
The results revealed that the individuals who were able to maintain their PA over time had significant decreases in symptoms of depression than those with little PA persistence. In the studies without medication, this improvement was particularly apparent at eight week follow-ups. Further, the difference in symptom severity was even more pronounced in individuals who had recurrent depression compared to those with first-episode depression.
Hohn believes that this could be the result of a compounding of skill acquisition over time. For instance, those who had dealt with depression in the past may have strengthened their PA persistence and developed methods for improving PA over time, while those experiencing their first depressive episode had not.
Another interesting finding emerged from the third study. In this analysis, Hohn discovered that the individuals with medication treatment had higher levels of PA persistence compared to those who were not on antidepressant medication. The reasons for this could again be due to a compounding effect, although more research in this area should be conducted to determine the exact effects of medication on PA persistence.
In sum, this study shows that unique facets of PA serve to protect individuals from depression. Hohn added, “The ability to transfer PA from one moment to the next is an important factor in the prevention of and recovery from depressive symptoms.”
Höhn, P., Menne-Lothmann, C., Peeters, F., Nicolson, N.A., Jacobs, N., et al. (2013). Moment-to-moment transfer of positive emotions in daily life predicts future course of depression in both general population and patient samples. PLoS ONE 8(9): e75655. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075655
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