Happiness intervention decreases pain and depression, boosts happiness among primary care patients

Prim Health Care Res Dev. 2015 Apr;16(2):114-26. doi: 10.1017/S146342361300056X. Epub 2014 Jan 22.


Aim: The aim of the study was to determine whether positive psychological interventions (PPIs) in a primary health care setting would improve physical and mental health over time.

Background: Most treatments for depression focus on reducing symptoms rather than on creating positive states of mental health. Empirical studies to verify the efficacy of PPIs in primary health care are needed.

Method: In a six-week pilot program, we invited patients in a primary health care setting with symptoms of depression to participate in groups designed to increase levels of happiness. The program involved interventions such as engaging in good deeds, writing gratitude letters, and introducing empirical research. Patients completed the SF12v2(®) at the beginning and end of the program and at three- and six-month follow-up. Measures included physical functioning, bodily pain, mental health, social functioning, and vitality. Patients also participated in focus groups to discuss their experiences.

Findings: Of the 124 patients who enrolled in this pilot study, 75 completed the six-week program, and 35 participated in two follow-up assessments. Among the participants who remained for all follow-up assessments, scores improved from baseline to 6-month follow-up for health, vitality, mental health, and the effects of mental and physical health on daily activities. This subset of patients reported greater energy and more daily accomplishments, along with reductions in functional limitations. Improvements in mental and physical health and functioning were shown over a six-month period. The study provides a basis for the further investigation of PPIs in creating improvements for patients with depression in primary health care.

Keywords: primary health care.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult