Ikigai and Anxiety & Stress

With the use of ikigai-9, Dr. Dean Fido and his co-authors found out that higher ikigai-9 scores were related to greater well-being and less depression. However, they found no relationships to either stress or anxiety.

Dr. Dean explains why the outcome turned out to be like that.

Nick: The objectives were to translate the ikigai-9 into English, and that included a back translation to validate the ikigai-9 in an English speaking sample, and then delineate associations between ikigai and state measures of mental well-being, depression, anxiety and stress.

So obviously, you achieved the first two, did you think you achieved the third?

Dean: So in terms of the third, just for the kind of listeners benefit, I can very like shortly boil down the key findings.

So what we do, we try to make direct associations between ikigai and measures of general mental well-being, depression, anxiety, and stress. What we kind of hypothesized was that if ikigai or the sensations and the feelings of ikigai was a sort of a master lock, almost to a functional mental well-being, then we should see positive associations with good mental well-being. 

The negative associations were feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. And what the results indicated was that the scores on ikigai-9 had very high predictability of stronger mental well-being, which was great, and low scores on measures of depression, which is also great.

The interesting findings, however, is that we didn't find any associations between stress and anxiety with the ikigai-9 which was quite unexpected. 

Nick: So why do you think so? It sounds like if you find ikigai in your life, or you develop ikigai can help with depression, and it obviously has all these positive psychological benefits.

But you're saying from the research, from what we can tell it is not going to help with anxiety and stress.

Is that because anxiety and stress are usually related to specific things in life -- meeting people, presenting, whereas depression, it's very hard to find the cause and sometimes there can be no cause.

Dean: I would say that's a perfect summation. If we're gonna take that hypothetical pin out of the wall that we talked about earlier, I was very happy with the relationship between positive mental well-being, because it's almost as if it's like this resilient factor.

We really did expect the negative association with depression due to the previous literature regarding ikigai and suicide completion.

Because as we know, depression is a huge precursor to suicide completion, sadly, and suicide attempts and suicide ideation, and the way in which we kind of describe these conflicting results with anxiety and stress is that depression seems to be more of a larger, more noticeable state in which somebody is in. 

So the common sorts of qualitative feelings of depression are more than sort of negative thoughts, but they're also physical responses, that people get fatigued, people can feel their heart, and they can feel this overwhelming sadness.

Whereas, yes, that can manifest in anxiety and stress, but in the West, people are anxious and people are stressed all of the time.

People have such conflicting and demanding work schedules, which put them under immense stress where they're working day in and day out, just to complete their contracted hours.

People have hectic lifestyles where they might be might be a single parent, or they might be a parent in a kind of dual relationship, but they've got to work, and then they've got to look after kids, and then they've got to clean and make food. 

So people are constantly stressed. And so that could account for some of this variation. And then that's why it's really important that we very much in future research, control the baseline situations that the people are in.

And that's a lot harder to do than it kind of is just by saying it. Because what's stressful for you might not be stressful for me, which might not be stressful for somebody else.

So it's almost kind of like we need this, this isolated vacuum to fully test this. It was really interesting, and especially because the measures of depression, anxiety and stress that we use are all sorts of validated measures, which have been around for years and years and years. We have very high faith that they are true recordings and true results.


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