Gratitude interventions “do not help people with anxiety and depression”, study claims

Gratitude self-help therapy does little to help those suffering from anxiety and depression, a major study has revealed.

According to the research, published by the Ohio State University, the commonly prescribed social technique has no significant impact on the wellbeing of those with mental health conditions.

Gratitude therapy is commonly recommended as a means to independently address mental illness, such as anxiety and depression. There are two major types: the “three good things” exercise and the “gratitude visit”.

The latter requires the patient to think, write down and reflect on three things that went well for them that day. The former technique, meanwhile, encourages a patient to write a letter thanking someone who has made a difference in their life and read it out loud to them.

But the new research, involving 3,675 participants, suggests that such interventions had “limited benefits at best”.

During the study, one set of participants were asked to take part in gratitude interventions, while the other half took part in an unrelated, but similar, activity – for example, scheduling their work week.

It was found that both activities had a similar effect on overall anxiety and depression scores.

Commenting on the findings, lead author David Cregg said: “For years now, we have heard in the media and elsewhere about how finding ways to increase gratitude can help make us happier and healthier in so many ways.

“But when it comes to one supposed benefit of these interventions – helping with symptoms of anxiety and depression – they really seem to have limited value.”

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