Well-being is linked to self-compassion

Self-compassion may defend against symptoms of depression according to researchers who surveyed a sample of German adults.

Lead study author Annett Körner and a team of researchers were interested in expanding upon previous research, examining a representative sample of adults living in Germany. The study, “The Role of Self-Compassion in Buffering Symptoms of Depression in the General Population,” was published in the October issue of PLOS ONE.

A total of 2,404 participants, who ranged in age from 18 to 91, took part in the study. Three sub-groups were assessed in the study: those with no depressive symptoms, those with probable major depressive disorder, and those with other depressive syndromes.  The Patient Health Questionnaire (PDQ-9) was used to measure symptoms of depression, while the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS) was used to assess self-compassion. The SCS is comprised of three positive subscales (self-kindness, common humanity, mindfulness) indicating positive self-compassion, and three negative subscales (self-judgment, isolation, over-identification), indicating a lack of self-compassion. Additionally, a self-compassion composite score comprised of the three positives subscales, and a self-coldness composite score comprised of the three negative subscales, were calculated.

Findings from this study indicated a significant difference between subgroups of non-depressed participants and those participants with a likely depressive disorder.  As depressive symptoms increased based on sub-group, the lack of self-compassion or self-coldness, also increased. While the self-compassion composite score demonstrated a weaker ability to differentiate between those participants with more or less depressive symptoms, self-kindness and mindfulness differentiated between those participants without depressive symptoms and those with likely major depressive disorder.

Which components of self-compassion best predicted depressive symptoms? Isolation accounted for the most variance in depression scores, while self-judgment and over-identification contributed minimally; findings related to isolation are supported in the literature as being a risk factor for depression.

Overall, the study authors concluded that “our core finding that self-compassion has the potential to buffer the relationship between self-coldness and depression provides an argument for future research into beneficial effects of self-compassion for psychological well-being in the general population.”