Life satisfaction and happiness in patients shielding from the COVID-19 global pandemic: A randomised controlled study of the 'mood as information' theory

Alice O'Donnell, Lydia Wilson, Jos A Bosch, Richard Borrows

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES: To extrapolate the 'mood as information' theory to the unique and ecologically relevant setting of the COVID-19 pandemic; the specific aim was to inform health care providers of the impact of bringing the pandemic to salience during life satisfaction evaluations, assessing whether this 'prime' results in increased or decreased reports of satisfaction which are derived unconsciously.

DESIGN: Prospective Randomised Interventional Study.

SETTING: Renal Transplant Department in a tertiary centre in the United Kingdom.

PARTICIPANTS: 200 Renal transplant patients aged between 20 and 88 years. Telephone interviews were undertaken between 1st May, 2020 and 29th May, 2020, at the height of 'shielding' from COVID-19.

INTERVENTIONS: Participants were randomised into 2 groups, with 1 group receiving a simple 'priming question' regarding the COVID pandemic and the other group having no prior contact.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASUREMENTS: Individuals were then asked to rate their own overall lifetime happiness; desire to change; overall life satisfaction and momentary happiness on a scale of 1 to 10 for each measure. Independent sample t-tests were used to compare results between the two groups, with a type 1 error rate below 5% considered statistically significant.

RESULTS: Participants' overall happiness with their life as a whole revealed that individuals who were primed with a question about COVID-19 reported increased overall happiness with their life compared to individuals who had not been primed (+0.88, 95% confidence interval 0.42 to 1.35, p = 0.0002). In addition, participants in the primed group reported less desire to change their life when compared to the non-primed group (-1.35, 95% confidence interval -2.06 to -0.65, p = 0.0002). Participants who were primed with the COVID-19 question also reported a higher overall satisfaction with their life than individuals who had not been primed (+1.01, 95% confidence interval 0.50 to 1.52, p = 0.0001). Finally, the participants who received the priming question demonstrated increased reported momentary happiness (+0.64, 95% confidence interval 0.03 to 1.24, p = 0.04).

CONCLUSIONS: The results demonstrated that bringing salience to the COVID-19 pandemic with a simple question leads to positive changes in both momentary happiness and other components of global life satisfaction, thereby extrapolating evidence for the application of the mood-as-information theory to more extreme life circumstances. Given the importance of patient-reported evaluations, these findings have implications for how, when and where accurate and reproducible measurements of life satisfaction should be obtained.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0243278
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume15
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Female
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Prospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom/epidemiology

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