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More self-help books, more depression

Staff writer ▼ | November 20, 2015
Consumers of self-help books are more sensitive to stress and show higher depressive symptomatology.
Stress
Surprise   Readers of problem-focused self-help books show more depressive symptoms
This is according to a study conducted by researchers at the CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal (Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal) and the University of Montreal, the findings of which were published in Neural Plasticity.

“The sale of self-help books generated over $10 billion in profits in 2009 in the US, which is a good reason to find out if they have a real impact on readers,” said Sonia Lupien, Director of the Centre of Studies on Human Stress (CSHS).

“Initially, we thought we had observed a difference in participants in terms of personality, sense of control, and self-esteem based on their self-help reading habits,” explained Catherine Raymond, first author of the study and a doctoral student at the CSHS of the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal.

“Our results show that while consumers of certain types of self-help books secrete higher levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) when confronted with stressful situations, consumers of another type of self-help books show higher depressive symptomatology compared to non-consumers,” said the student in neuroscience at the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Medicine.

The CSHS team recruited 30 participants, half of whom were consumers of self-help books. The team measured several elements of the participants, including stress reactivity (salivary cortisol levels), openness, self-discipline, extraversion, compassion, emotional stability, self-esteem, and depressive symptoms.

The group of self-help book consumers was itself divided into two types of readers: those who preferred problem-focused books (e.g. Why Is It Always About You? or How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To) and those who preferred growth-oriented books (e.g.,You’re Stronger Than You Think or How to Stop Worrying and Start Living).

The results showed that consumers of problem-focused self-help books consumers presented greater depressive symptoms and that growth oriented self-help books consumers presented increased stress reactivity compared to non-consumers.


 

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