Hope Matters: Mental Health in College Students

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Dr. Charlotte Witvliet

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A growing body of research has documented the positive implications of hope for well-being. C.R. Snyder and colleagues viewed hope cognitively as goalfocused, emphasizing way-power (pathways to reach a goal) and willpower (motivation to achieve a goal; Snyder, Rand, & Signon, 2002). Scioli et al. (2011) viewed hope comprehensively, rooting it in motivation, emotion, relationships, and spirituality. By contrast, Dunn et al. (2014) described hopelessness as a negative view of important future outcomes. College students (N=255; 69% Female, 31% Male) completed an online survey containing self-report measures of hope (Snyder et al., 1996; Scioli, 2011) and hopelessness (Dunn et al., 2014). The survey also measured mental health and illness variables such as meaning in life, satisfaction with life, flourishing, depression, and anxiety. First, we assessed correlations between state hope and mental health variables. As hypothesized, cognitive and comprehensive hope were positively correlated with meaning in life, satisfaction with life, and flourishing. Hope measures were inversely correlated with depression and anxiety. Opposite patterns occurred for hopelessness. Second, we tested whether cognitive hope, comprehensive hope, and hopelessness together accounted for a significant proportion of variance in flourishing scores. In support of this hypothesis, the three hope-related measures accounted for a significant amount of the variance in flourishing scores. Finally, we replicated and extended research by Venning et al. (2011) and tested whether hope-related variables or depression and anxiety symptoms better predicted flourishing mental health (Keyes, 2007). Importantly, a multiple regression analysis indicated that hope measures were significant predictors of flourishing mental health, going above and beyond measures of depression and anxiety. These findings have theoretical and applied implications, and may provide empirical support for clinicians to promote flourishing mental health through cultivating genuine hope.

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