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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Meta-analyses of positive psychology interventions on well-being and depression : reanalyses and replication White, Carmela Anna


At least since the work of Fordyce (1977), researchers have been interested in the effectiveness of interventions designed to increase well-being. This interest has increased substantially since Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) coined the term 'positive psychology'. Interventions designed to increase well-being have become known as positive psychology interventions (PPIs). Two highly cited meta-analyses examined the effectiveness of PPIs on well-being and depression: Sin and Lyubomirsky (2009) and Bolier et al. (2013). Whereas Sin and Lyubomirsky (2009) reported relatively large effects of PPIs on well-being (r = .29) and depression (r = 31), Bolier et al. (2013) reported much smaller effects on subjective well-being (r = .17), psychological well-being (r = .10), and depression (r = .11). A detailed examination of the two meta-analyses reveals that the authors employed different approaches, used different inclusion and exclusion criteria, analyzed different sets of studies, described their methods with insufficient detail to clearly compare them, and failed to notice or properly account for significant small sample size bias. The first objective of the current study was to reanalyze the studies selected in each of the published meta-analyses, while taking into account small sample size bias. The second objective was to replicate each meta-analysis by extracting relevant effect sizes directly from the primary studies included in the meta-analyses. The third objective was to conduct a series of new meta-analyses using effect sizes extracted directly from all studies included in the previous meta-analyses. Three previous meta-analyses were identified, reanalyzed, and replicated. The results of present study revealed three key findings: (1) many of the primary studies used a small sample size, (2) small sample size bias was found to be pronounced in many of the analyses, and (3) when small sample size bias was taken into account, the effect of PPIs on well-being were small but significant (r = .10), whereas PPIs effects on decreasing depression were not statistically significant (r = .00). Future PPI research needs to focus on (1) increasing sample sizes of primary studies and (2) assessing cumulative findings from comprehensive meta-analyses that address common issues such as small sample size bias.

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