The overall aim of this thesis is to investigate the relationship between meaning in life and psychological health, including both psychopathology and well-being. In particular, the hypothesised salutatory effect of meaning on psychological health was explored. Initially, concept analysis (Walker & Avant, 1995) was used to clarify the definition of meaning and its underlying attributes through a systematic review of the psychological and health-related literatures (Paper 1). A keyword search using PsychINFO, MEDLINE, CINAHL, and Web of Science yielded 151 relevant sources, including journal articles, books, and book chapters. The most frequently cited attributes of meaning were collated and their validity was critically evaluated with reference to theoretical and empirical considerations as well as hypothetical case analyses. Meaning was defined as a multidimensional, phenomenological construct consisting of a variety of psychological mechanisms spanning motivational, cognitive, affective, and behavioural domains as well as various emergent properties. Ten attributes were identified, including motivation for meaning, meaningful goals, purpose, values, meaningful attitudes, evaluations of meaning-fulfillment, meaningful affect, meaningful behaviour, internal integration, and external integration. Thereafter, the relationship between meaning and psychological health was reviewed in order to assess the degree to which conceptual models and causal hypotheses are substantiated by empirical findings (Paper 2). Preliminary evidence supported a salutatory effect of meaning on both psychopathology and well-being. Various limitations were outlined, including ambiguity and lack of consensus in the conceptualisation and measurement of meaning, the need to assess bidirectionality in the relationship between meaning and psychological health, and issues in the design of empirical studies. Recommendations encompassed the use of integrative conceptualisations of meaning and corresponding multidimensional measures as well as improved methodological designs. Finally, a randomised controlled trial of a meaning-in-life group workshop (n = 23) in comparison to a non-intervention control (n = 21) was conducted using a non-clinical adult population (Paper 3). The workshop consisted of six 75-90 minute weekly sessions held consecutively over six weeks. Topics included psychoeducation about meaning, values clarification, meaningful behaviour scheduling, meaningful goals pursuit, infusing mundane activities with meaning, and meaning-based coping. Results indicated: (a) improvements in crisis of meaning but not meaningfulness or purpose in life; (b) no significant improvement in measures of hedonic well-being (i.e., life-satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect); (c) significant improvements for some aspects of eudaimonic well-being (i.e., environmental mastery and positive relations with others) but not others (i.e., autonomy, personal growth, and self-acceptance); and (d) improvements in depression, anxiety, and stress. Improvements in psychological health and well-being were largely mediated by reductions in crisis of meaning, thereby supporting the theorised salutatory effect of meaning on psychological health. Although this intervention did not address the effect of meaning on clinical psychopathology, the cumulative research findings, taking into account the review of meaning and psychological health (Paper 2), provide preliminary evidence for a salutatory, causal effect of meaning on both psychopathology and well-being. Accordingly, the development, application, and investigation of meaning-based therapeutic techniques appears to be a worthwhile pursuit for the treatment of psychopathology and the enhancement of well-being. Moreover, these findings contribute an integrative conceptualisation of meaning and its underlying attributes that has implications for future measurement and empirical research on meaning.
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