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Salud mental

versão impressa ISSN 0185-3325


MARRERO QUEVEDO, Rosario J.  e  CARBALLEIRA ABELLA, Mónica. The role of optimism and social support on subjective well-being. Salud Ment [online]. 2010, vol.33, n.1, pp.39-46. ISSN 0185-3325.

Introduction In recent years, a great deal of research has been carried out to identify the aspects that affect subjective well-being. In these studies, different indicators of well-being have been used. While some studies have used satisfaction with life as an indicator, others have focussed on psychological adjustment, while still in some other cases the focus has been on positive emotions and even physical health, understood as the lack of illness, as contributing to well-being. Nevertheless, these indicators have not been directly comparable. The objective of this study is to analyze whether optimism and social support equally affect or not subjective well-being. Subjective well-being has been defined as the global tendency to experience life in a pleasant way. The evaluation that people carry out has two components: a cognitive component, evaluated through life satisfaction, and an affective one, measured through positive and negative affect. Previous research has been centred on analysing the factors which could influence either on positive or negative ways, such as personality, optimism, coping styles, and social support. It has been demonstrated that well-being is determined, in some way, by optimism and social support. However, there has been very little research analysing the relative impact of these variables on the different measures of well-being. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine the influence of optimism and social support on the different components of subjective well-being. We have analysed: firstly, the relationships of optimism and social support with well-being; second, whether or not optimists feel more subjective well-being; third, social support together with optimism have an enhancer effect on well-being; and four, optimism and social support can differentially predict the several components of subjective well-being. Method This is a cross-sectional study where subjective well-being has been assessed in 477 people from general population between 18 and 66 years old (M=25.66; SD=8.81). The following measures were used: satisfaction with specific life domains (partner, job/studies, health and leisure), life satisfaction, positive emotions, negative emotions, and mental health. Optimism was evaluated through the Life Orientation Test-Revised (LOT-R) and Social Support through the Social Support Questionnaire (SSQ-6). Moreover, certain demographic and physical health characteristics were assessed through a semi-structured interview. In order to analyse the relationships among the variables included in the study, we administered partial correlations, controlling for gender. Also, one-way analyses were conducted to discover any differences in well-being between high, medium, and low optimists. Afterwards, U Mann-Whitney was applied in order to analyze whether optimist people with high social support show more well-being than optimist people without social support. Finally, in order to study the capacity of optimism and social support in predicting the different components of well-being, several multiple regression analyses were applied. Results Results showed that socio-demographic and physical health variables do not influence optimism. There is a close relationship between optimism and all the measures of subjective well-being, with optimists showing more life satisfaction, fewer psychological symptoms, more positive emotions, less negative emotions, and being more satisfied in several specific life domains, such as partner and health. Perceived social support is associated with different signs of well-being, although the extent of the correlation is lower. Participants with more perceived social support show better adjustment, more life satisfaction and partner satisfaction, they have more positive emotions and less negative emotions. There are not significant associations of perceived social support with health satisfaction and with job satisfaction. The amount of social support resources shows low correlations with subjective well-being, particularly with some of the psychological adjustment measures and with life satisfaction. When differences between high and low optimists are analysed, similar results are observed. High optimists have less anxiety, depression, interpersonal sensitivity symptoms, and score lower in the strength disorder index than low optimists. Moreover, high optimists experience more positive emotions and less negative ones, report more satisfaction with their partner, with health and with life in general, and have more perceived social support. So, optimism seems to have an influence on most of the well-being components. On the other hand, when optimism and social support effect on well-being are analyzed altogether, it can be observed that high optimist people with high social support show more positive emotions, more satisfaction with leisure, more life satisfaction; and less negative emotions, depression and interpersonal sensitivity than high optimists with poor social support.

Palavras-chave : Optimism; social support; subjective well-being; mental health.

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