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Clinical Trial
, 11 (3), e0150867

Preserving Subjective Wellbeing in the Face of Psychopathology: Buffering Effects of Personal Strengths and Resources

Clinical Trial

Preserving Subjective Wellbeing in the Face of Psychopathology: Buffering Effects of Personal Strengths and Resources

Elisabeth H Bos et al. PLoS One.


Background: Many studies on resilience have shown that people can succeed in preserving mental health after a traumatic event. Less is known about whether and how people can preserve subjective wellbeing in the presence of psychopathology. We examined to what extent psychopathology can co-exist with acceptable levels of subjective wellbeing and which personal strengths and resources moderate the association between psychopathology and wellbeing.

Methods: Questionnaire data on wellbeing (Manchester Short Assessment of Quality of Life/Happiness Index), psychological symptoms (Depression Anxiety Stress Scales), and personal strengths and resources (humor, Humor Style questionnaire; empathy, Empathy Quotient questionnaire; social company; religion; daytime activities, Living situation questionnaire) were collected in a population-based internet study (HowNutsAreTheDutch; N = 12,503). Data of the subset of participants who completed the above questionnaires (n = 2411) were used for the present study. Regression analyses were performed to predict wellbeing from symptoms, resources, and their interactions.

Results: Satisfactory levels of wellbeing (happiness score 6 or higher) were found in a substantial proportion of the participants with psychological symptoms (58% and 30% of those with moderate and severe symptom levels, respectively). The association between symptoms and wellbeing was large and negative (-0.67, P < .001), but less so in persons with high levels of self-defeating humor and in those with a partner and/or pet. Several of the personal strengths and resources had a positive main effect on wellbeing, especially self-enhancing humor, having a partner, and daytime activities.

Conclusions: Cultivating personal strengths and resources, like humor, social/animal company, and daily occupations, may help people preserve acceptable levels of wellbeing despite the presence of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Fig 1
Fig 1. Distribution of happiness ratings in three symptom severity subgroups (N = 2411).
Normal/Mild subgroup: mean (sd) = 7.3 (1.2), range 1–10; Moderate subgroup: mean (sd) = 5.7 (1.8), range 0–9; Severe subgroup: mean (sd) = 4.2 (2.2), range 0–9.

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Grant support

The work was funded by VICI grant # 91812607 received by PdJ from the Netherlands Organization for Health Research Development (ZonMW; The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.