How Authenticity Enhances Health Outcomes
Research shows that authenticity combats the effects of loneliness.
Posted Mar 13, 2018
Studies consistently report that, on average, people who score higher on tests for authenticity are happier.
But how important is authenticity to mental health?
In an important study to investigate this, Jennifer Bryan and her colleagues at the University of Houston carried out a survey of over 500 students, asking them about how lonely they felt. Loneliness is one of the biggest causes of mental health difficulties.
They also asked the students about their mood, physical symptoms and how much alcohol they typically drank. They found that those who felt more lonely were also more depressed and anxious, had more physical symptoms and more drink problems. That’s probably not surprising, but they also found that if those who felt lonely also scored highly on authenticity, then the feelings of depression and anxiety, physical symptoms and drink problems were not as intense. It seems that authenticity acts to protect people against the adverse health effects of loneliness.
It is likely that authenticity is helpful to people’s health in a number of ways, but most notably if people are in tune with, and appreciative of, their internal states they are more likely to choose to live healthier lives, will recognize earlier the signs and symptoms of illness, seek medical advice, and be more alert to when they are engaging in self-destructive behaviors.
Authenticity is likely to foster the essential psychological resources that give people perspective on any difficulties they do experience, and help them manage emotional and environmental challenges.
Bryan, J. L., Baker, Z. G., & Tou, R. Y. (2017). Prevent the blue, be true to you: Authenticity buffers the negative impact of loneliness on alcohol-related problems, physical symptoms, and depressive and anxiety symptoms. Journal of health psychology, 22(5), 605-616.