Moment-to-Moment Transfer of Positive Emotions in Daily Life Predicts Future Course of Depression in Both General Population and Patient Samples

Petra Hoehn*, Claudia Menne-Lothmann, Frenk Peeters, Nancy A. Nicolson, Nele Jacobs, Catherine Derom, Evert Thiery, Jim van Os, Marieke Wichers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Objective: Positive affect (PA) is closely linked to prevention of, and recovery from, depression. Previous studies have investigated PA reactivity to pleasant situations with respect to its protective properties in relation to mood disorder. The purpose of this study was to examine, and replicate, whether moment-to-moment transfer of PA in daily life (PA persistence) is relevant to the prediction of future course of depression. Method: Individuals from three different studies (one general population sample (n=540), and two patient samples (n=43 and n=50) with matching controls (n=39 and n=21, respectively)) participated in an Experience Sampling Method (ESM) study. Time-lagged multilevel analyses were used to assess the degree of transfer (or persistence) of momentary positive affective states over time, in relation to naturalistic outcome (study 1) or treatment outcome (studies 2 and 3). Depressive symptoms were measured using the Symptom Checklist (SCL-90R) in sample 1 and the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) in samples 2 and 3. Results: In study 1, participants with greater momentary PA persistence were less likely to show depressive symptoms at follow-up. In study 2, patients were more likely to respond to treatment if they displayed greater momentary PA persistence, particularly in those with recurrent depression. In study 3, patients with greater momentary PA persistence were similarly more likely to respond to treatment, especially when treated with imipramine rather than placebo. Conclusion: The ability to transfer PA from one moment to the next is an important factor in the prevention of and recovery from depressive symptoms. Patients with recurrent depression and those who receive antidepressants rather than placebo may benefit most from this effect. The results suggest that treatment-induced improvement in depression is mediated by increased levels of momentary transfer of PA in daily life, acquisition of which may be contingent on duration of exposure to depressive experience.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere75655
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sep 2013

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