Background: Anxiety and depressive disorders are often characterized by perceived social disconnection, yet evidence-based treatments produce only modest improvements in this domain. The well-established link between positive affect (PA) and social connectedness suggests that directly targeting PA in treatment may be valuable.
Method: A secondary analysis of a waitlist-controlled trial (N=29) was conducted to evaluate treatment response and process of change in social connectedness within a 10-session positive activity intervention protocol-Amplification of Positivity (AMP)-designed to increase PA in individuals seeking treatment for anxiety or depression (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02330627). Perceived social connectedness and PA/negative affect (NA) were assessed throughout treatment. Time-lagged multilevel mediation models examined the process of change in affect and connectedness throughout treatment.
Results: The AMP group displayed significantly larger improvements in social connectedness from pre- to post-treatment compared to waitlist; improvements were maintained through 6-month follow-up. Within the AMP group, increases in PA and decreases in NA both uniquely predicted subsequent increases in connectedness throughout treatment. However, experiencing heightened NA throughout treatment attenuated the effect of changes in PA on connectedness. Improvements in connectedness predicted subsequent increases in PA, but not changes in NA.
Conclusions: These preliminary findings suggest that positive activity interventions may be valuable for enhancing social connectedness in individuals with clinically impairing anxiety or depression, possibly through both increasing positive emotions and decreasing negative emotions.
Keywords: Anxiety; affect; depression; positive activity intervention; randomized controlled trial; social connectedness.