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Belonging Buffers the Impact of Cognitive Vulnerabilities on Affective Symptoms

Abstract

Background

Social factors such as perceived social support and a sense of belonging may be protective against stress-related outcomes. It is unclear how these constructs may interact with cognitive vulnerabilities for mental health. The current study examined whether belonging and perceived social support buffered the effect of two cognitive vulnerabilities, perseverative thinking and distress intolerance, on affective symptoms.

Methods

Participants (N = 1269) were Florida residents aged 18–79 years (M = 35.13, SD = 11.66) who experienced Hurricane Irma. All participants completed an online survey approximately 4–8 months post-Irma, assessing perseverative thinking, distress intolerance, and current symptoms of depression and anxiety. Participants also completed two measures of social support: belonging and perceived social support during the hurricane.

Results

Belonging significantly moderated the effect of both perseverative thinking and distress intolerance on anxiety and depression, such that the relationship was weaker in those with high levels of belonging. Perceived social support did not exhibit the same moderating role for either anxiety or depression.

Discussion

The results of this study suggest that belonging buffers the relationship between perseverative thinking, distress intolerance, and affective symptoms post-hurricane. Interestingly, perceived social support did not display the same buffering role. This study highlights the important role of social factors, particularly belonging, in protecting against affective symptoms following a stressor.

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Funding

This study was funded by the University of Miami CAS Hurricane Irma Seed Funding; and the Hurricane Resilience Research Institute (HURRI) Seed Funding Initiative.

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Correspondence to Kiara R. Timpano.

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Hannah C. Broos, Maria M. Llabre, and Kiara R. Timpano declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Informed consent was obtained from all participants and no animals were used in this study.

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Broos, H.C., Llabre, M.M. & Timpano, K.R. Belonging Buffers the Impact of Cognitive Vulnerabilities on Affective Symptoms. Cogn Ther Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-021-10267-9

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Keywords

  • Belonging
  • Social support
  • Distress tolerance
  • Perseverative thinking
  • Affective symptoms