Skip to main content
Log in

The Effect of Self-Compassion on the Development of Depression Symptoms in a Non-clinical Sample

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Mindfulness Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Self-compassion, or the ability to kindly accept oneself while suffering, is a topic of significant and growing scientific interest. Past research has shown, for example, that self-compassion is associated with less concurrent depression. So far, however, it remained untested whether self-compassion also prospectively predicts depression symptoms. Three hundred and forty-seven first-year psychology students (303 women; 44 men), ages 17–36, completed measures of self-compassion and depression symptoms at two assessments separated by a 5-month period. Results showed that self-compasion significantly predicted changes in depression symptoms, such that higher levels of self-compassion at baseline were significantly associated with greater reductions and/or smaller increases in such symptoms over the 5-month interval. These findings are consistent with the idea that self-compassion respresents a potentially important protective factor for emotional problems such as depression. Additional analyses further suggest that self-compassion is a relatively stable trait-like characteristic.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Arrindell, W. A. (1993). The fear of fear concept: Stability, retest artefact and predictive power. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 31, 139–148.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Brown, G. K. (1996). Beck Depression Inventory (2nd ed.). San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bögels, S. M., Lehtonen, A., & Restifo, K. (2010). Mindful parenting in mental health care. Mindfulness, 1, 107–120.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Germer, C. K. (2009). The mindful path to self-compassion. New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gilbert, P. (2005). Compassion and cruelty: A biopsychosocial approach. In P. Gilbert (Ed.), Compassion: Conceptualisations, research and use in psychotherapy (pp. 9–74). Hove, UK: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gilbert, P., & Proctor, S. (2006). Compassionate mind training for people with high shame and self-criticism: Overview and pilot study of a group therapy approach. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 13, 353–379.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Howarth, E. (1978). The μ index for differentiating state and trait. Psychological Reports, 43, 474.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kuyken, W., Watkins, E., Holden, E., White, K., Taylor, R. S., Byford, S., et al. (2010). How does mindfulness-based cognitive therapy work? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48, 1105–1112.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Leary, M. R., Tate, E. B., Adams, C. E., Allen, A. B., & Hancock, J. (2007). Self-compassion and reactions to unpleasant self-relevant events: The implications of treating oneself kindly. Journal of Personality and Individual Differences, 92, 887–904.

    Google Scholar 

  • Neff, K. D. (2003a). Development and validation of a scale to measure selfcompassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223–250.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Neff, K. D. (2003b). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2, 85–102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 139–154.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Neff, K. D. (2009). Self-Compassion. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 561–573). New York: Guilford Press

  • Raes, F. (2010). Ruminating and worrying as mediators of the relationship between self-compassion and anxiety and depression. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 757–761.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Raes, F., Pommier, E., Neff, K. D., & Van Gucht, D. (2010). Construction and factorial validation of a short form of the self-compassion scale. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. doi:10.1002/cpp.702.

    Google Scholar 

  • Van der Does, A. J. W. (2002). Manual of the Dutch version of the BDI-II. San Antonio, TX/Lisse, the Netherlands: The Psychological Corporation/Swets Test Publishers.

  • Vanheule, S., Desmet, M., Groenvynck, H., Rosseel, Y., & Fontaine, J. (2008). The factor structure of the Beck Depression Inventory–II: An evaluation. Assessment, 15, 177–187.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Filip Raes.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Raes, F. The Effect of Self-Compassion on the Development of Depression Symptoms in a Non-clinical Sample. Mindfulness 2, 33–36 (2011).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: