This study used a two-wave longitudinal research design to explore the role of individual strengths, including interpersonal strength, intellectual strength, and temperance strength, in affecting the mental health of stressed college students.
A total of 404 stressed Chinese college students were screened to participate in this 12-month longitudinal study.
At the beginning of the study (Time 1), students who had not experienced stressful events within the last 12 months were invited to assess their strengths, psychological well-being, and psychological symptoms. After 12 months (Time 2), 404 students who reported stressful experiences completed the scales again and were retained for the final analyses.
Academics-related stressors were the most endorsed life events among college students, whose states of mental health showed downward trends from Time 1 to Time 2. Three strengths had weak to modest correlations to mental health at both Time 1 and Time 2. Although the additional variances of mental health explained by the three strengths were very modest, the mediational roles of the strengths were identified. The perceived stress completely mediated the relationship between the strengths and the psychological symptoms and partly mediated the relationship between the strengths and psychological well-being.
Individual strengths may function as a defense against perceived stress and are protective factors of mental health. These strengths maintain mental health by enhancing the psychological well-being and reducing the psychological symptoms of individuals.