Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

Skip to Search

Skip to Navigation

Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice - Early View Articles, Pages ${blockparams.parentJournalIssue.pageRange}

Stressed, depressed, and rank obsessed: Individual differences in compassion and neuroticism predispose towards rank‐based depressive symptomatology

Objectives As social creatures, we monitor our relative rank and/or status with others via social comparisons. Whilst research has identified perceptions of inferiority or ‘low rank’ relative to others is a robust predictor of depressive, anxious, and stress symptomology, to date individual differences have been ignored. We wish to provide empirical evidence to outline how differences across personality traits may interact with social rank variables to buffer or predispose towards depressive symptomology. Methods Across three independent samples (N = 595), we replicated a social rank model of mental health, and with our third sample (N = 200), we sought to investigate attenuating roles for neuroticism versus compassion with multiple moderated regression models. Results Neuroticism predicted greater levels of rank‐associated depression, and compassion failed to function as a protective factor for rank‐associated depression. However, a closer inspection of the original Big‐5 factor structure positions this scale as a measure of ‘interpersonal submissiveness’ or ‘conflict appeasement’ rather than genuine compassion. Conclusions Whilst it is necessary to delineate the conditions where compassion is appropriate and able to lead to positive mental health outcomes, we argue this cannot be addressed with the Big‐5 measure of trait compassion. We call for future work to consider valid and reliable measures for compassion, such as the self‐compassion scale, submissive compassion scale, and fears of compassion scale, to more fully address how compassion may protect against both rank‐based comparisons and severity of depression. Practitioner Points Social rank mechanisms are robustly implicated in depression, anxiety, and stress. Clients who present as higher in neuroticism, inferiority, or submissiveness may be more prone towards rank‐associated depression symptoms. Preliminary evidence suggests cultivation of genuine compassion can shift clients from a rank‐focussed to a compassionate‐focussed mentality, which aids mental health and fosters well‐being.

Add This link

Bookmark and Share>