Psychological flexibility as a malleable public health target: Evidence from a representative sample

Authors:
Andrew T. Gloster, Andrea H. Meyer, and Roselind Lieb

Abstract:

Background

Identifying salient and widespread health-promoting targets is a prerequisite for efficient public health initiatives. We tested the moderating influence of psychological flexibility — a fundamental, trainable set of intrapersonal and interpersonal processes that help people manage stressors and strengthen alternative adaptive behaviors — on the relationship between known risk factors and physical health, mental health, and well-being.

Method

A representative sample of 1035 participants in Switzerland aged 18 – 74 years answered questions about their physical health, health care utilization, mental health, well-being, and three risk factors: stressful life events, daily stress, and low social support. Statistical models tested whether psychological flexibility moderated the relationship between risk factors and outcomes.

Results

Psychological flexibility consistently moderated the relationship between stress and all tested outcomes, following a dose response: Higher levels were more protective.

Conclusions

Targeting psychological flexibility — a salient and widespread set of trainable skills — could promote various health outcomes.

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