Wanting to be happy but not knowing how: Poor attentional control and emotion-regulation abilities mediate the association between valuing happiness and depression

Bahram Mahmoodi Kahriz, Joanne L. Bower, Francesca M. G. Q. Glover, Julia Vogt

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18 Citations (Scopus)
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Recent studies suggest that valuing happiness is associated with negative psychological health outcomes, including increased depression, in US samples. We aimed to replicate these associations in two studies at a UK university (Nstudy one = 151, and Nstudy two = 299). Importantly, we also investigated the role of emotional attentional control and habitual emotion regulation in the relationship between valuing happiness and depression. In both studies, we found that valuing happiness was related to increased depression, confirming the link between valuing happiness and depression in a Western country outside of the USA. Moreover, our findings indicated that the relationship between valuing happiness and depression was strongest in British, rather than non-British participants or participants of dual nationality. Further, our findings revealed that valuing happiness and depression were indirectly associated via the ability to control attention in emotional situations, perceived ability to savor positive experiences, and the extent to which positive emotions feel intrusive. Specifically, increased valuing happiness was associated with lower emotion attention control and lower savoring of positive experiences, which in turn was related to depressive symptoms. These results show that the impaired ability to respond adaptively to emotional situations and to enjoy positive events may underlie the paradoxical relationship between valuing happiness and low well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2583–2601
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number7
Early online date26 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Valuing Happiness
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Emotion attentional Control
  • Savoring beliefs
  • Depression

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