When it feels good to give: Depressive symptoms, daily prosocial behavior, and adolescent mood

Emotion. 2019 Aug;19(5):923-927. doi: 10.1037/emo0000494. Epub 2018 Aug 23.

Abstract

Past research has suggested that engaging in prosocial acts enhances the well-being of the helper, but does prosocial behavior benefit some individuals more than others? The current study implements a daily diary design to test associations between adolescents' daily prosocial behaviors toward relationally close others and mood. The main goal was to investigate whether daily help-giving has unique benefits for adolescents experiencing greater emotional distress. For 10 days, a diverse sample of youth (N = 99; Mage = 18.01) reported on their prosocial behaviors toward friends and romantic partners as well as their mood; depressive symptoms were assessed in a prior lab visit. Multilevel models showed that participants experienced increased positive mood on days that they were more prosocial, even when controlling for received support; this association was strongest among those reporting higher depressive symptoms. The findings highlight the unique benefits of prosociality in adolescents' daily lives, suggesting that everyday help-giving behaviors may fulfill social and emotional needs of depressed youth. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / physiology*
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Social Behavior*