Poster Presentation 6th World Congress on Positive Psychology 2019

A Positive Understanding Of The Effect Of Stress On Psychological Health: The Role Of Eustress In Adolescent Wellbeing   (#526)

Victoria Branson 1 , Edward Palmer 2 , Matthew J Dry 1 , Deborah Turnbull 1
  1. School of Psychology, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia
  2. School of Education, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia

Background. Youth surveys consistently report stress as the top personal concern of Australian adolescents. While lay understandings generally conceptualise stress as dysfunctional and detrimental to wellbeing, psychological theory describes stress as an unavoidable occurrence that can be delineated into both negative and positive aspects, known as distress and eustress respectively. Conforming to lay assumptions, the negative effects of distress on psychological health are well-established. However, the concept of ‘positive stress’ has received markedly less research interest. The aim of the current research was to counteract this negative focus, positively expanding the emphasis of stress research to consider the role of eustress in adolescent wellbeing.

Method. 1,081 South Australian students (13-20 years old, 54.03% female) completed an online survey measuring eustress, wellbeing, and related psychological and behavioural variables.

Results. Conditional Process Analysis indicated Eustress shared a strong, positive relationship with Wellbeing, explaining 41.88% of its variance. This relationship was partially mediated by psychological illbeing, self-efficacy, physical activity, and daytime sleepiness.

Conclusions. Eustress was a strong predictor of increased adolescent wellbeing, challenging the assumption that stress is incompatible with a flourishing, thriving life. Given the strength this relationship, Positive Psychology Interventions aimed at cultivating adolescent wellbeing should consider incorporating eustress-generating techniques.