Strengthening resilience and reducing depression-linked cognitive interpretation biases in university students

Cognitive appraisals or interpretations of an emotion-eliciting or ambiguous situation determine emotion regulation and are discussed as one key-mechanism in the maintenance or recovery of mental health in the face of stressor exposure (psychological resilience). The goal of this study was to examine the effects of an evidence-based blended resilience intervention (“Auf Kurs bleiben”/”Stay on track”) on the modification of cognitive interpretation biases in university students in a longitudinal design. University students (N = 588) were either receiving a 11-week blended resilience training (N=273) including three face-to-face (F2F) group-sessions and eight subsequent weekly online lessons, which focus on enhancing the strategies and recourses taught and transfer these to daily life or taking part in a control group (N=315). Participants were not randomly allocated to the intervention or control arm. Both groups completed measures of mental health, stressor exposure, resilience-factors and cognitive bias at pre- and post-intervention as well as at 12-months follow-up assessment. We regressed mental health on stressor exposure in order to assess resilience as an outcome. Our findings indicate that the intervention group had significantly higher resilience scores and lower scores on cognitive interpretation biases at post-intervention and 12-months follow-up than did the controls. Our findings suggest that our resilience intervention may prevent stress-related mental health problems such as negative interpretation biases and holds promise to strengthen psychological resilience in university students.

Prof. Dr. Michèle Wessa (principal investigator),
Dipl.-Psych. Sandra Schönfelder,
M. Sc. Eike Strömer,
M. Sc. Eliza Isabel Eckhardt,
M. Sc. Anna Katharina Bergmann,
Dipl.-Psych. Mila Domke-Wolf