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How important is hope when we are in mental distress and how does it affect quality of life?


What is hope? We commonly hear or use it to mean we are in a place of wishing that something might happen. In this case, hope sounds like a passive stance toward a desired state. 

However, research since the early 1980s has been studying this highly interesting and possibly impactful concept of hope. 

Studies now agree that hope is not passive, but an active stance toward achieving a goal, and it involves looking at ourselves and the situation as capable of doing something to change things. It also means being able to motivate ourselves to take action toward our desired goals.

The hope and mental health connection

One study used a hope-based intervention when asking participants to write down their personal goals. Then they asked them to think about and note their plans on how to achieve these goals. They did this for 8 weeks, and the researchers found that the participants reported having clearer life meaning, increased self-esteem and having fewer symptoms of mental health struggles like anxiety and depression.

Another study in 2014 involving patients with depression showed similar results. After 10 weeks, those who made personal plans and action steps towards overcoming their mental health struggle had less severe symptoms of depression.

It would seem that hope-based activities work because it allows people to reframe their thinking, gives them a chance to form new habits that empowers them to see themselves in a better future. 

Quality of life

Quality of life can be defined as the umbrella concept that covers wellbeing, factors that influence our existence, including our total health (physical, spiritual, and mental), our relationships, environment at work, our social status, feelings of security and safety, decision-making, and even our physical environment. 

According to the World Health Organization, quality of life is our personal and subjective assessment of our current reality in relation to where we want to be (our goals). 

The hope and quality of life connection

A study that looked into the hope and quality of life of mothers with children with special needs measured the mothers’ level of hope and assessed their current quality of life. In terms of quality of life, the environment had the highest impact on the mothers’ physical, psychological, and social health. In addition, it showed that the higher the mothers’ level of hope is, the higher their assessment of their quality of life is.

In another study of patients undergoing dialysis, researchers checked the level of hope and how hope is associated with quality of life and mental distress among 134 patients. 

The researchers found that hope was highly connected with age and the level of social support that patients received. Also, patients who had higher hope had better mental wellbeing and they showed fewer symptoms of depression. 

This led researchers to recommend that we need to set up systems to identify people who are losing hope so that they can receive some form of intervention early on in order to prevent severe consequences.  

Cancer rates have been increasing in recent years, and studies of hope in relation to cancer patients’ quality of life are becoming more relevant. Analysis of these topics shows that hope has a positive influence on cancer patients’ perception of their quality of life and it helps them cope with the stress and suffering that cancer brings.

On the other hand, more research needs to be done on how to impart hope to people with serious and debilitating diseases like cancer.

The studies on hope’s relationship to mental health and quality of life show us that there is a need to share the benefits of increasing hopefulness in individuals and societies. It will pave the way for better mental health outcomes, give people strength to face life’s challenges, and encourage better relationship-building. 

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How important is hope when we are in mental distress and how does it affect quality of life?
Brandon Resasco