Associations of Psychological Thriving with Coping Efficacy, Expectations for Future Growth, and Depressive Symptoms Over Time in People with Arthritis

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Objective: Psychological thriving reflects a trajectory of growth over time as opposed to scaling back expectations. Whether thriving is a product, precursor, or process of coping with arthritis-related limitations is unclear. We examined associations between thriving, coping efficacy, and expectations for future growth in individuals with arthritis, and the relations of thriving to depressive symptoms and retrospective perceptions of personal growth over a six-month period.

Methods: A sample of 423 people with arthritis completed measures of thriving, coping efficacy, depressive symptoms, and expectations for future growth; 168 individuals completed a six-month follow-up survey. Structural equation modeling analyses compared three possible models of psychological thriving, controlling for disease-related variables. Hierarchical regression analyses of the cross-lagged associations of thriving with retrospective perceptions of positive personal change and depressive symptoms were also conducted.

Results: Structural equation analyses suggest that the process model in which thriving and coping efficacy jointly predicted expectations for future growth best fit the data. Baseline thriving was also associated with retrospective perceptions of personal growth at follow-up and fewer depressive symptoms at baseline and follow-up, after controlling for disease-related variables.

Conclusion: Overall, these findings suggest that psychological thriving is synergistically related to coping efficacy, and to expectations for future growth and less depression, in people with arthritis. Importantly, our findings support the notion that psychological thriving is more than scaling back expectations, and that thriving may be an important quality to cultivate to address the burden of depression in people with arthritis.