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Health Psychol. 2017 Feb;36(2):122-132. doi: 10.1037/hea0000436. Epub 2016 Oct 27.

Gratitude uniquely predicts lower depression in chronic illness populations: A longitudinal study of inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis.

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Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield.
Behavioral Science Centre, Stirling Management School, University of Stirling.



Although gratitude has been identified as a key clinically relevant trait for improving well-being, it is understudied within medical populations. The current study addressed this gap and extended previous and limited cross-sectional research by examining the longitudinal associations of gratitude to depression in 2 chronic illness samples, arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).


Two chronic illness samples, arthritis (N = 423) and IBD (N = 427), completed online surveys at Time 1 (T1). One hundred sixty-three people with arthritis and 144 people with IBD completed the 6-month follow-up survey (T2). Depression, gratitude, illness cognitions, perceived stress, social support, and disease-related variables were assessed at T1 and T2.


At T2, 57.2% of the arthritis sample and 53.4% of the IBD sample met the cut off scores for significant depression. T1 gratitude was negatively associated with depressive symptoms at T1 and T2 in both samples (rs from -.43 to -.50). Regression analyses revealed that T1 gratitude remained a significant and unique predictor of lower T2 depression after controlling for T1 depression, relevant demographic variables, illness cognitions, changes in illness-relevant variables, and another positive psychological construct, thriving, in both samples.


As the first investigation of the longitudinal associations of gratitude to psychological well-being in the context of chronic illness, the current study provides important evidence for the relevance of gratitude for health-related clinical populations. Further intervention-based research is warranted to more fully understand the potential benefits of gratitude for adjustment to chronic illness. (PsycINFO Database Record

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