Volume 6, Article 5
The Role of Perceived Stress in the Relationship between Purpose in Life and Mental Health
Anne Guzman, Kaitlyn B. Schodt and Bruce W. Smith
Citation: Guzman, A., Schodt, K. B., & Smith, B. W. (2022). The Role of Perceived Stress in the Relationship between Purpose in Life and Mental Health. International Journal of Stress Prevention and Wellbeing, 6, 5, 1-15. https://www.stressprevention.net/volume/volume-6-2022/volume-6-article-5/
Processing dates: Submitted: 5th November 2021; Re-submitted 29th March 2022; Accepted: 1st April 2022; Published: 29th September 2022
Background/Aims/Objectives: Although purpose in life (PIL) has been consistently related to better mental health, there is little understanding of whether the association may be explained by changing the appraisal of or reactivity to stress. Further, most research has examined PIL among older adults (> 50 years old) with few studies examining PIL among college students. The hypotheses were that PIL would (1) be related to more positive and less negative mental health (2) be related to less perceived stress, and (3) reduce the effects of perceived stress in increasing negative mental health and decreasing positive mental health.
Methods/Methodology: Undergraduate students (N = 546) completed measures of PIL, perceived stress, positive mental health (positive affect, life satisfaction), and negative mental health (negative affect, anxiety, depression). Regression analyses were conducted to test each of the hypotheses in the overall sample and subsamples of male, female, and each ethnicity.
Results: Results supported hypotheses 1 and 2. Significant interaction effects arose for negative affect and life satisfaction for American Indian/Alaska Native participants. For hypothesis 3, results for depression among male participants were significant. Post hoc analysis revealed perceived stress acting as mediator between PIL and each mental health outcome.
Discussion: Greater PIL was associated with lower perceived stress, and in turn better mental health, suggesting PIL as a potential target for treatment.
Conclusion: This study supports PIL as a beneficial resource for positive mental health and a protective factor for negative mental health among college students. Additional research is needed to further elucidate how the role of PIL might vary by sex and ethnicity.
Keywords: Purpose in life, Perceived stress, Mental health, Appraisal, Reactivity
Anne Guzman M.S. is with the Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA
Kaitlyn B Schodt M.S. is with the Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA
Bruce W. Smith Ph.D is with the Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA