Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Optimism and Psychological Resilience in Relation to Depressive Symptoms in University Students: Examining the Mediating Role of Self-Esteem

Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Optimism and Psychological Resilience in Relation to Depressive Symptoms in University Students: Examining the Mediating Role of Self-Esteem

Article excerpt

The study of depression has been one of the most interesting research topics for many years (e.g., Giltay, Zitman, & Kromhout, 2006; Nolen-Hoeksema, 2000). Approximately 350 million people suffer from depression world-wide (WHO, 2012). Depression is different from short-term emotional reactions caused by daily hardships and usual mood swings. Specifically, long-term and medium or severe depression may cause serious problems. such as low performance and high levels of suffering at work, school and family (WHO, 2012). Depression is a mental illness often seen specifically in university years (e.g., Eisenberg, Gollust, Golberstein, & Hefner, 2007). University students begin a transition into a life increasingly independent from their families in college and have to deal with difficulties, such as lack of family support, academic success, economic hardships, and coping with new responsibilities. Often, students can exhibit depressive symptoms as a result of these challenges (Beck, Taylor, & Robbins, 2003; Eisenberg, et al., 2007). Such individuals typically have severe feelings of incompetence and low life satisfaction (Fuhrer, Rintala, Hart, Clearman, & Young, 1992). Depressive symptoms may cause negative expectations for the future. However, one of the protective properties from negative future expectations seems to be optimism.

Optimism

Optimism refers to the general expectancy that one will experience good outcomes in the future (Scheier & Carver, 1985). In the literature optimism is defined by two important components: "learned optimism" (Peterson & Seligman, 1984) and "dispositional optimism" (Scheier & Carver, 1985). Learned optimism is accepted as a personal trait rather than situational explanatory style. According to this theory optimistic individuals use adaptive attributional style in order to explain adverse events. On the other hand, Scheier and Carver (1985) define optimism as a general belief that good things will happen rather than bad things in the future. Thus, optimism, as a personality trait, reflects good expectations for the future.

Some authorities divide optimism into two aspects: realistic and unrealistic. According to Schneider (2001), all forms of optimism are not beneficial. Being optimistic is not beneficial when the expectations and goals are unrealistic. In unrealistic optimism, although individuals are aware of their limitations they have high positive expectations for the outcomes. For instance, if they have an expectation that they will get high grades from an exam with the help of God and good luck, although they have not studied or have inadequately studied for an exam. However, in realistic optimism, in order to reach the desired outcomes, studying and hoping are necessary. In other words, when enough effort is put in, it is not just a dream to achieve a desired outcome.

Optimistic individuals seem able to solve problems they face more rapidly (Chang & D'Zurilla, 1996). Because optimistic individuals have positive expectations for the future, they experience less anxiety and daily problems (LaMontagne, Hepworth, Salisbury, & Riley, 2003; Trunzo & Pinto, 2003), they experience more positive emotions (Lai et al., 2005) and they have more life satisfaction (Bailey, Eng, Frisch, & Snyder, 2007; Leung, Moneta, & McBride-Chang, 2005). Thus, they suffer less depressive symptoms because they can deal with problems more strongly (Chang, 1998; Puskar et al., 1999). In various studies, optimism has been found to be negatively associated with depressive symptoms (e.g., Cohen, Moor, & Amato, 2001; Steele & Wade 2004). In other words, both optimists and pessimists encounter similar problems in their lives, but optimists seem to overcome these issues more easily; pessimists may simply give up and fall into depression (Seligman, 2007). Therefore, those with high optimism tend to have low levels of depression (Van der Velden et al. …

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