Studies have indicated that high levels of anxiety could undermine adolescents’ peer interactions and academic performance and could increase the risk of other mental health issues. Positive psychology intervention (PPI) was found to prevent mental illness and enhance positive mental health. A randomized controlled trial by Kwok and colleagues examined whether a multicomponent positive psychology intervention (MPPI) would enhance gratitude and emotional intelligence, which in turn would reduce anxiety and increase happiness in adolescents.
First, four secondary schools were selected randomly in Hong Kong and grade 8 and grade 9 students of those four schools undertook the anxiety subscale of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Second, of those identified as probable anxiety cases according to HADS scores, half were randomly assigned to the experiment group (n=46) and the other half to the control group (n=46). The experimental group attended a 7-session intervention which lasted for 7 weeks with focus on gratitude awareness and expressions, ability to appraise and regulate emotions, as well as on developing a plan to maintain gratitude and emotional intelligence. Various activities were conducted in the program, e.g., games, experimental exercises, relaxation training, role play, art, etc. Students in the control group attended classes as usual. All measures were assessed with self-reported questionnaires.
- Results of repeated design ANOVA indicated that the intervention enhanced gratitude (ES=+0.87), emotional intelligence (ES=+0.44), subjective happiness (ES=+0.47), and reduced anxiety symptoms (ES=-0.46).
- Mediation analyses found that anxiety was reduced through enhancing emotional intelligence but not gratitude.
- However, subjective happiness was increased through both enhancing gratitude and emotional intelligence in the intervention.
The study offered some evidence that a MPPI programme could help to regulate emotions of adolescents and reduce their anxiety symptoms. However, the authors reminded us to interpret the findings with caution. Not only because the sample size was small, but the study also failed to use an active control group to balance the placebo effect that may happen in an experimental group. Moreover, students in the experimental group were aware of their participation of an intervention so possibly evaluated themselves more positively in self-reported questionnaires.
Source: Kwok, S. Y. C. L., Gu, M., & Tam, N. W. Y. (2022). A multiple component positive psychology intervention to reduce anxiety and increase happiness in adolescents: The mediating roles of gratitude and emotional intelligence. Journal of Happiness Studies, 23(5), 2039–2058. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-021-00487-x