Large study shows enthusiasm and hope are important character strengths for better health and a sense of purpose in life

Large-scale psychology studies show that character strengths have a positive effect on many aspects of our health. Enthusiasm, hope and self-regulation were qualities that were consistently associated with positive health outcomes. The study was published in Journal of Research in Personality,

Character strengths are positive qualities that have a favorable impact on our lives and the lives of others, such as kindness, creativity, and bravery. Psychology research has revealed extensively that these qualities are associated with beneficial outcomes such as greater life satisfaction and better physical health. It has been proposed that character strengths can enhance emotional well-being and encourage positive health behaviors – which have a positive effect on our health.

Study author Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska and her team wanted to expand on existing research by studying a larger international sample and including additional health measures.

“There are theoretical arguments from philosophical and religious traditions that morally valuable personality traits such as strength of character are not only fundamental to one’s identity but can produce positive outcomes for oneself and/or others, contributing to the greater good.” Can,” explained Weziak—Bialowolska, associate professor at Jagiellonian University and faculty affiliate in Harvard University’s Human Flourishing Program.

“Character strengths are positive and morally valuable personality traits. They are of interest to positive psychology, which has shifted attention from ‘traditional’ ill-health prevention and risk-mitigation to identifying factors that contribute positively to health and well-being. My recent research is on identifying positive health and well-being stimuli, which is exactly the main objective of the Positive Health Program – the research project in which I am a principal investigator.

“My interest in the role of character strengths for health and well-being also stems from prior empirical findings—some of them from my own previous research—showing that acting according to moral standards and accepted rules of good, honest and/or Propensity to do or ethical behavior, as well as prosocial and altruistic behavior such as generosity and kindness, contribute to the attainment of greater well-being and better health (eg, lower risk of incident cognitive impairment, dementia, not depression, fewer limitations in mobility and less difficulty in instrumental activities of daily living among middle-aged and older adults),” said Weziak-Bialowolska.

“Although more than 700 studies on character strengths have linked them with many positive outcomes, as reported by the VIA Institute on Character Strengths, the scope of studies focusing specifically on physical health and healthy behaviors and The sample size is limited. Therefore, the main motivation for our study was to advance the science of health behavior as well as character strengths and health in two important ways. These include inclusion of frequently analyzed areas of health and data from a larger sample. to collect.”

Researchers distributed an online survey to nearly 60,000 people in 159 countries. Questionnaire assessed 24 character strengths with the 96-item Values ​​in Action Inventory of Strengths. [VIA-IS], The survey also included various questions related to health and health-related behaviours.

“We used the VIA-IS to measure character strength,” said Weziak-Bialowolska. “According to this taxonomy—developed by Peterson and Seligman—there are 24 character strengths (i.e., hope, gratitude, curiosity, conscientiousness) grouped into six broad virtue categories, which are universal across cultures and nations (i.e., wisdom, courage, , Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Excellence).

The researchers examined associations between 24 character strengths and 15 health outcomes, controlling for gender, age, education, employment status and annual household income. For health-related quality of life, the strongest effect sizes were for enthusiasm and hope that were positively associated with health-related quality of life outcomes, and kindness and appreciation of beauty that were negatively associated with health-related quality of life outcomes. was intimately connected.

For sense of purpose in life, the strongest effect sizes were for hopefulness, spirituality, enthusiasm, persistence, and curiosity that were positively associated with purpose in life. For positive health behaviors, such as involvement in sporting activities, the effect sizes were particularly strong for enthusiasm, curiosity, and self-regulation. Gratitude was also consistently and favorably associated with positive health behaviors, although with a weaker effect size.

Weziak-Bialowolska and her colleagues noted that enthusiasm was the character strength that emerged most frequently in relation to positive health outcomes. Enthusiasm is a trait that describes enthusiasm and energy toward life, and previous studies have linked this trait to a lower risk of depression and positive health habits such as healthy eating.

“Our findings suggested that maintaining a well-healthy lifestyle coincides with energy and enthusiasm for life and health (enthusiasm), an attitude of discipline and resistance to temptations (self-regulation), life feeling and expressing a sense of gratitude in and with others (gratitude), and optimistic thinking and confidence that goals can be reached (hope),” Weziak-Bialowolska told PsyPost. “These can be viewed as primary character strengths leading to health outcomes and behaviors.”

Intriguingly, there was also an association between character strengths and harmful health behaviors. Twenty character strengths were associated with greater risk of either smoking or excessive drinking, and 8 character strengths were associated with greater risk of both harmful behaviors. For example, a love of learning, prudence, and self-regulation were associated with a lower risk of smoking and drinking. Beauty, humor, assertiveness, and social intelligence were associated with a greater risk of smoking and drinking.

“We looked for an explanation and there are a few. According to one, character strengths can have a negative effect if they are drawn on too often,” said Weziak-Bialowolska. “In other words, when their application is sub-optimal—that is, they are over- or under-used. As the individual brings too much or too little of the force to a particular situation, it can have negative effects on themselves or others. Could

“For example, the character strength of judgment involves demonstrating critical and detailed thinking and analysis. Excessive use of this strength can be seen as being rigid, cynical, narrow-minded, and self-absorbed, and a person can make a person harsh and overly critical (i.e., judgmental) of themselves and others. This overuse can contribute to negativity toward self and one’s habits. A person can become trapped in a negative vicious cycle of thinking and feeling that characteristic of many mental disorders.

In addition, “kindness involves caring, being kind, or going out of your way to give to others,” Weziak-Bialowolska said. But “using kindness excessively can leave a person feeling overextended, exhausted, and drained of compassion. Even when well-intentioned, kindness can be imbalanced by excessive attention to others. This can lead to self-compassion and healthier behaviors toward oneself. There’s a risk of limiting lifestyle choices, such as self-care, quality sleep, healthy eating, and exercise.”

Finally, the fact that appreciation of beauty was negatively tied to health outcomes may suggest that this trait leads people to focus on external, potentially missing internal cues related to mental and physical health. Is.

The study was limited by its reliance on cross-sectional data, which limits conclusions about causality. The study also used a convenience sample, which means that self-selection bias may have influenced the results – people interested in character strengths may have been more likely to participate in the study.

“We still need more research to explain why we observe these associations and what can be done to trigger and reinforce the positive effects of certain character strengths on health and health behaviors.” —can also be done to limit the negative health effects of other character strengths,” Weziak-Bialowolska told Cypost. “Despite this shortcoming, our sample size included approximately 60,000 respondents from 159 countries. This provides some reassurance, though not reason, that the results are ubiquitous.

“Our study focused on character strengths,” said the researcher. “We did not investigate how their application or use is linked to health and health behaviors. It is our intention to expand our study in this direction in the future.

The study, “Character Strengths and Health-Related Quality of Life in a Large International Sample: A Cross-Sectional Analysis,” was authored by Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska, Piotr Bialowolski, and Ryan M. Niemik.

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