Testing the mood brightening hypothesis: Hedonic benefits of physical, outdoor, and social activities in people with anxiety, depression or both

Hanna van Loo*, Sanne Booij, Bertus F. Jeronimus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The mood brightening hypothesis postulates that people with depressive symptoms report more positive affect (PA) and less negative affect (NA) than healthy controls after rewarding daily life activities. Whether mood brightening also occurs in people with anxiety symptoms remains unclear. This study examined effects of physical activity, being outdoors, and social activity on PA and NA across different levels of depression and anxiety symptoms in the general Dutch population.

Participants completed an electronic diary on their smartphone, thrice daily over 30 days, to assess activities and affect (n = 430; 22,086 assessments). We compared five groups based on their scores on the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scales: asymptomatic participants, participants with mild symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, depression symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and comorbid depression and anxiety symptoms. Multilevel linear regression models with interaction terms were used to compare the association between activities and affect in these five groups.

All activities were associated with increased PA and reduced NA in all groups. We found a mood brightening effect in participants with depression, as physical activity and being outdoors were associated with reduced NA. Participants with depression had increased PA and reduced NA when in social company compared to asymptomatic participants. No mood brightening effects were observed in participants with anxiety or comorbid depression and anxiety.

Our sample included mainly women and highly educated subjects, which may limit the generalizability of our findings.

Mood brightening is specific to depression, and typically stronger when in social company.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-223
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume325
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15-Mar-2023

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