Life Satisfaction as a Distinguishing Indicator of College Student Functioning: Further Validation of the Two-Continua Model of Mental Health

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Abstract

The two-continua model of mental health contends that both psychological distress and psychological well-being make related-yet-distinct contributions to our understanding of human health and its relations with other quality of life outcomes. Using self-reported somatization, depression, and anxiety symptoms as indicators of psychological distress and self-reported life satisfaction as an indicator of psychological well-being, the present study classified participants into one of four mental-health-status groups—mentally healthy, mentally unhealthy, symptomatic yet content, or asymptomatic yet discontent—and investigated between-group differences across three key indicators of college student functioning: academic achievement, interpersonal connectedness, and physical health. Findings provide further validation for the two-continua model of mental health among college students, showing that, when considered in conjunction with clinical symptoms, life satisfaction serves as a distinguishing indicator of college students functioning across academic, social, and physical health domains—as well as a strong predictor of the absence or presence of clinical symptoms and comorbidity. Implications for theory, practice, and future research are discussed.

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Correspondence to Tyler L. Renshaw.

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Renshaw, T.L., Cohen, A.S. Life Satisfaction as a Distinguishing Indicator of College Student Functioning: Further Validation of the Two-Continua Model of Mental Health. Soc Indic Res 117, 319–334 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-013-0342-7

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Keywords

  • Life satisfaction
  • Mental health
  • Psychological well-being
  • Psychological distress
  • Quality of life