The Influence of Hope and Optimism on Trajectories of Wellbeing and Health-Related Outcomes During the COVID-19 Pandemic



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The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a threat to public health and psychological functioning. Prior studies have documented higher than average rates of mental illness within the US population after the onset of the pandemic, and the accompanying disruption to financial stability and daily routine have persisted. Hope and optimism facilitate adjustment to stressful circumstances and are robustly associated with positive physical and mental health outcomes (Carver & Scheier, 2017; Conversano et al., 2010; Lee & Gallagher, 2018; Snyder, 2002). These positive expectancies may foster resilience during the pandemic by facilitating adaptive emotion regulation strategies, such as cognitive reappraisal. Thus, the present study aimed to examine how hope and optimism influence levels of wellbeing and health-related outcomes such as COVID-19 perceived stress, health anxiety, and fatigue during the pandemic, and to determine whether adaptive emotion regulation underlies these relationships. Data was collected from 788 American adults across three time periods during the Spring and Summer of 2020 using the Amazon MTurk platform. Latent growth curve modeling (LGCM) was used to determine whether hope and optimism predict the longitudinal trajectories of wellbeing, health-related outcomes, and whether these positive expectancies have indirect effects on these outcomes through cognitive reappraisal during the pandemic. The results indicated that COVID-19 stress (M Slope = -.22, p < .001), health anxiety (M slope = -.03, p = .05), and fatigue dropped over time (M Slope = -.24, p < .001), while wellbeing (M Slope = .01, p = .76) and cognitive reappraisal remained relatively stable (-.04, p = .30). Individually, hope and optimism predicted lower initial levels of COVID-19 perceived stress (Hope b = -.20, p < .001; Optimism b = -.42, p < .001) , health anxiety (Hope b = -.07, p < .001; Optimism b = -.28, p < .001), and fatigue (Hope b = -.27, p < .002; Optimism b = -1.40, p < .001), as well as greater initial wellbeing (Hope b = .59 p < .001; Optimism b = .76 p < .001) and cognitive reappraisal (b = .59 p < .001; b = .57 p < .001). When examining the combined effects of positive expectancies and cognitive reappraisal, optimism showed the strongest relationship with wellbeing and health-related outcomes. Findings regarding the role of cognitive reappraisal in these relationships were mixed. Overall, the results suggest that Americans responded to the current global health crisis with resilience, with some evidence that positive expectancies, particularly optimism, predicted better initial adjustment after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.



COVID-19, Resilience, Hope, Optimism, Health, Well-being, Stress, Health Anxiety