A study by an international team of scientists, including Dr Laura Renshaw-Vuillier from Bournemouth University, has for the first time established a relationship between specific emotions and wellbeing during a period of collective stress.
The findings, published in the journal Emotion, showed that calm and hope appear to be promising routes to psychological wellbeing. Anxiety, loneliness, and sadness are consistently associated with reduced wellbeing. The researchers believe this is an important finding for wellbeing interventions, especially in view of future societal crises.
“It is common sense that when people feel good, they report higher levels of well-being. But people don't just feel 'good' or bad', we feel excited or hopeful or calm; or angry or sad or lonely,” explained Dr Renshaw-Vuillier, Principal Academic in Psychology.
“Understanding the contribution of specific types of emotional experiences is key to guiding efforts to enhance well-being, particularly in times of collective stress like the COVID pandemic, or climate change," she continued.
The team of sixty-two researchers tested the hypothesis that certain kinds of emotional experiences relate to psychological wellbeing during a stressful period.
They conducted a survey among 24,221 participants in fifty-one countries during the Covid-19 pandemic. They then followed this up with a repeat study in the USA and UK, and a further study where participants completed a diary of their feelings and behaviours.
"We found that only the specific emotional experiences of calm and hope were consistently associated with better psychological well-being, while anxiety, loneliness and sadness were linked with lower wellbeing. The exciting part is that these results were consistent across 51 countries, held across analytical approaches, and were confirmed in a replication and a diary study as well."
The scientists advise that their findings provide a key to strengthening individual and societal interventions to improve wellbeing.
“This does not imply that emotions and well-being are a personal responsibility, or that we should only just experience positive emotions,” said Dr Renshaw-Vuillier. “Unpleasant emotions are entirely natural and a part of an everyday healthy life. But it suggests that interventions targeting these emotions, for instance through public institutions creating opportunities to experience moments of calm and hope, may be helpful to improve collective well-being, particularly in periods of collective stress," she concluded.