Accelerated and micro-longitudinal approaches to understanding depressive symptoms and human flourishing.

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The three studies presented here assess self-reported depressive symptoms in two large samples of U.S. respondents. The first two examine the National Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), an ongoing nationally representative prospective study of adolescents, while the third examines SoulPulse, a non-representative, self-selected smartphone study of the adult population. The purpose of these inquiries is to apply group-based trajectory modeling and hierarchical linear modeling to enhance our understanding of depressive symptoms. These engage accelerated and micro-longitudinal designs, making it possible to map distinct etiological trajectories of symptom burden over a lengthy developmental period with Add Health, and to disentangle trait and state levels of psycho-social experience in assessment of depressive symptoms and flourishing with SoulPulse. Study one examines parental, educational, peer, and religious ecological clusters, finding that good parental relationships and positive family dynamics are strongly associated with decreased symptom burden. Peer support, teacher support, and educational achievement are also highly protective. Delinquent behavior, as well as Black and Asian ethnicity, are risk factors, while other ecological factors such as romantic relationships, number of sexual partners, and religious prayer and attendance have modest associations with depressive burden. Study two disaggregates the Add Health sample by gender, developing specific etiological trajectories for each. It then examines a range of religion and spirituality items, assessing subjective measures of religious experience not common in the depression literature. Results indicate that subjective forms of religion and spirituality are associated with increased depressive symptom burdens, and that these burdens are more strongly associated with depressive symptoms for men than for women. Study three examines daily stressors, daily spiritual experiences, depressive symptoms, and flourishing. The findings indicate robust direct associations between stressors, spiritual experiences, and the two measures of mental well-being, as well as substantial support for the moderating role of daily spiritual experiences on the relationships between stressful life events and well-being. This examination reveals that not only do higher average (trait) scores of spiritual experience associate with increased well-being, but that higher momentary (state) scores of spiritual experience are related to increased well-being above and beyond trait level.

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Life course. Depressive symptoms. Religion. Mental health. Longitudinal.
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