mental health

Well-being and social connection can generate “an upward spiral” by reinforcing each other

Well-being and social connection can generate "an upward spiral" by reinforcing each other
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Social connection and agency are known to be positively correlated with emotional well-being, but do one lead to the other or are they independent but related? A study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology explores these three variables over a 13-year period to better explore their relationship.

Wellness became a popular research topic as psychology began to focus on how to live a good and happy life. Well-being has been linked to other positive life variables, but the relationships are not well understood.

Social connectedness, specifically having meaningful and supportive relationships, has been linked to positive mental health outcomes in previous research, including higher levels of well-being. Agency, or taking control of your own life and experiences, is another factor related to well-being.

Despite this, it is unclear whether these relationships are unidirectional or bidirectional. This study aims to better understand the relationship between these three variables using longitudinal data.

“Several well-known theoretical perspectives offer valuable guidance on the essential components of the good life and two that are central to the field are social connection (perceived level of social interaction and support from others) and agency (perceived ability to influence life circumstances).),” Dianne Vella-Brodrick and colleagues explained in their study.

“Yet the evidence remains unsettled as to whether these are best conceptualized as antecedents or outcomes of well-being. In the case of social connection, the evidence suggests that causation can run in both directions. In the case of agency, most research suggests that it serves as an antecedent to well-being, but these claims are usually based on cross-sectional data or statistical models that do not allow proper testing of directional relationships. In this study, we seek to address these limitations.

Vella-Brodrick and colleagues used data from a large, nationally representative Australian longitudinal sample. Data was used from 22,980 participants. Data was collected annually, but this study used 4-year information covering a 13-year period; 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015. Participants completed measures of emotional well-being, agency, and social connection. The researchers controlled for differences between people.

The results showed that higher levels of emotional well-being predicted higher levels of agency and social connection later in life. Moreover, higher levels of agency early in life predicted both well-being and social connections at later times. In contrast, prior cases of increased social connection were not related to future agency or participants’ emotional well-being.

This suggests that wellbeing and agency are highly influential factors that have a reciprocal relationship that can lead to more positive aspects of later life and mental health. Social connection emerged as a less important predictor in this study, although it has been an important variable of well-being in other studies.

“Collectively, these results suggest that having a sense of control over one’s life and having high levels of emotional well-being are important for establishing social connections and may indeed predict levels of social connections up to 13 years later. “, explained the researchers. “In the current study, emotional well-being was measured using a combination of four feeling-oriented positive affect items: energetic, lively, calm and peaceful, and happy, and five elements of negative affect exploiting feeling: depressed, tired, exhausted, and nervous.

“Consistent with the Enlargement and Construction Theory (Fredrickson, 2001), it may be necessary to experience a certain level of happiness and energy before one has the confidence and ability to form social bonds, which involves having lots of friends and spending time with people of personal importance Once this is established, social connection may then contribute to feelings of well-being and well-being and connection social reinforce each other to create an upward spiral.

This study has taken important steps to better understand the factors that can affect and be affected by well-being. Despite this, there are limitations to note. A limitation of this research is that the amount of data available for analysis was reduced by the fact that the longitudinal study only asked about agency at four waves. Another limitation is that the measurements were constrained by the limitations of available data; future research may include additional measures of well-being that go beyond just emotional well-being.

The study, “Longitudinal Relationships Between Social Connection, Agency, and Emotional Well-Being: A 13-Year Study,” was authored by Dianne Vella-Brodrick, Mohsen Joshanloo, and Gavin R. Slemp.

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