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Association of Increased Levels of Happiness with Reduced Levels of Tension and Anxiety after Mental Stress Testing in Japanese College Students

Author(s): Satoshi Horiuchi | Akira Tsuda | Natsuki Toyoshima | Shuntaro Aoki | Yuji Sakano

Journal: Psychology
ISSN 2152-7180

Volume: 04;
Issue: 09;
Start page: 682;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: Happiness | Mental Stress Testing | Mood | Stress

Previous studies from western countries have reported that happy individuals report lower levels of negative mood during and/or following mental stress testing; this finding has not been examined in Japan. This study examined the relationship between happiness, measured using the Subjective Happiness Scale (Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999), and negative moods (i.e., tension and anxiety) during and after mental stress testing in Japanese college students. Based on the findings of previous literature and inverse correlations between positive and negative moods, we hypothesized that participants with higher levels of happiness (the higher happiness group, or HG) show significantly lower levels of negative moods and higher levels of positive moods following mental stress testing, compared to participants with lower levels of happiness (the lower happiness group, or LG). Of a total of 392 Japanese undergraduates who participated in a screening survey, those whose scores were one standard deviation higher or lower than the average score were invited to participate in the experiment. Eight HG and nine LG students agreed to participate. A five-minute computerized mental arithmetic task was used to induce stress. The session comprised a five minute pre-task period, a five minute task, and a five minute post-task period. The levels of positive and negative moods during each period were measured retrospectively following each period. Heart rate was measured during the session. Participant heart rate levels and negative moods increased significantly from the pre-task to the task periods, and subsequently decreased during the post-task period. Levels of positive mood decreased from the pre-task to the task period. Negative moods were significantly lower in HGs than in LGs during the post-task period. These results partially supported the hypothesis whereby subjective happiness buffered the impact of stressors on negative moods by influencing post-stress negative mood levels.  
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