The association of momentary sad moods, concurrent productive behaviour, and global functional outcomes: a 30-day ecological momentary assessment study of people with bipolar illness

Cogn Neuropsychiatry. 2022 Sep;27(5):342-355. doi: 10.1080/13546805.2022.2070464. Epub 2022 May 1.


Background: Previous weekly sampling studies found that persistent sad moods are associated with disability in bipolar illness. However, those data were collected retrospectively. We examined the momentary quality of activities (productive, unproductive, and passive recreation) in an ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study and related sadness at each survey to quality of momentary activities and overall everyday functioning.

Methods: Participants with bipolar illness (N = 91) were sampled three times per day for 30 days. Each survey queried participants as to where they were, with whom, what they were doing, and their mood state. Activities were characterised according to predetermined criteria and related to momentary sadness. Observer ratings of everyday functioning were related to daily reports of sadness and activities.

Results: Sadness was associated with the quality of activities. Momentary reports of unproductive activities were associated with the most sadness (p < .001), followed by passive recreation, and productive activities. Momentary sadness and momentary unproductive activities correlated with observer ratings of competence in work, everyday activities, and social outcomes (p < .001). Using both predictors led to the best model.

Conclusions: This study on the course of sad moods in people with bipolar illness to EMA found that momentary sadness correlatesdwith the quality of concurrent activities and that both sadness and the quality of everyday activities predicted observer ratings of everyday functioning. Although we cannot determine the causal direction, these findings support the hypothesis that momentary sadness leads to reductions in productive activities and impairments in everyday functioning.

Keywords: Bipolar illness; daily activities; disability; ecological momentary assessment; mood states.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder*
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment*
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sadness
  • Surveys and Questionnaires