The relations between pleasurable emotions and depression: Exploring the potential significance of contentment

Nathaniel S. Eckland, Bienvenu Nzinga, Rachel Leipow, Howard Berenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Previous research has found that the diminished ability to experience pleasure is a common feature of depression, but has not examined whether depression is associated equally strongly with the different types of pleasurable emotions. Contentment, which has been found to be especially strongly associated with life satisfaction and is associated with a sense of completeness or completion, was expected to be especially relevant to depression. Methods: In two studies, participants (N = 70, and N = 109), who were receiving outpatient treatment, completed self-report measures of depression, contentment, tranquility, and cheerfulness. Worry and suicidality were also measured, in Studies 1 and 2, respectively. Results: As hypothesized: (a) contentment was associated as strongly with depression as was cheerfulness; (b) contentment was more strongly associated with depression than was tranquility; (c) contentment was more strongly associated with depression than it was with worry; and (d) contentment was associated with suicidality even after taking into account depression severity, cheerfulness and tranquility. Limitations: The present research relied on self-report. Because both studies employed cross-sectional designs, conclusions regarding causality cannot be drawn. Conclusions: Contentment is associated with depression, even after taking into account other pleasurable emotions. The present findings raise the possibility that attending to different types of pleasurable emotions, such as contentment, may be important for understanding the different potential pathways to depression, and may be capable of predicting differential responses to alternative treatments for depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-253
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume283
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 15 2021

Keywords

  • Cheerfulness
  • Contentment, tranquility
  • Depression
  • Suicidality
  • Worry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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