Gratitude and Health Behaviors: The Role of Future Orientation

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Background: Gratitude is an orientation towards the positive in life that increasingly is shown to have relevance for physical health. Less is known about how gratitude relates to health behaviours. The self-regulation resource model (SRRM) posits that future-orientation is a resource that promotes selfregulation of health behaviours. Accordingly, we meta-analytically tested whether gratitude was associated with the practice of health-promoting behaviours, and if future-orientation explained the association.

Methods: Data from 14 samples (N = 4,111) from our labs were included in the meta-analysis as there was no published data. All samples completed measures of state or trait gratitude, and a measure of health behaviour frequency; six samples completed a measure of future orientation/self-continuity. Random effects metaanalysis was conducted on the correlations of gratitude with health behaviours, with subgroup analyses. Indirect effects through FO were tested and meta-analysed.

Findings: Across all 14 samples, gratitude was significantly associated with more frequent health behaviours, avg. r = .261, [.22, .31]. The effects did not vary significantly across sample type (student/community), or gratitude measure (state/trait). Mediation analyses revealed significant indirect effects of gratitude on health behaviours through future-orientation in the six samples tested (N = 2,828), with an average index of mediation of beta = .068 [.05, .08]. The direct effects remained significant.

Discussion: Findings are consistent with the SRRM and demonstrate that gratitude is associated with the practice of health-promoting behaviours, due in part to future-orientation. Further research is warranted to more fully investigate the potential of gratitude for promoting health behaviours.


Aberdeen, Scotland

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