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The Positive Side of Things: Examining Factors that Predict Positive Mental Health in Individuals with Problematic Substance Use


Problematic substance use (PSU) is highly prevalent within Canada. Individuals who suffer from PSU face disproportionate amounts of stigmatization. An individual achieves self-directed recovery (SDR) from PSU through a process of change where individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life and strive to reach their full potential. Negative social interactions, social supports, and demographic variables such as income are suggested to predict SDR. This concept of SDR is like the concept of flourishing within positive mental health (PMH). A flourishing individual is mentally healthy, exhibiting high levels of emotional wellbeing and positive functioning. The similarities between SDR and PMH have been noted previously, however research on the relationship is lacking. The current study aims to identify how individuals with PSU differ on PMH, social supports and negative social interactions when compared with the general population, as well as analyze if income, education, sex, age, social supports, and negative social interactions predict PMH in individuals with PSU. The sample was comprised of individuals between the ages of 20 and 64 years and who reported a lifetime history of substance abuse or dependence in the CCHS-MH database (N = 956). Participants differed from the general population on measures of PMH, social supports, and negative social interactions. Age, sex, income, social supports, and negative social interactions were found to predict PMH in individuals with PSU. This suggests the same factors that predict SDR in individuals with PSU also predict PMH. Implications of the study’s findings as well as study limitations are discussed.

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This work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.


This work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s Award received by author C.M.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data analysis, and writing proportion were performed by Christina Murphy, Jacqueline Hesson, Ross Connolly. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Christina Murphy and all others commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Christina Murphy.

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The data of this study was previously collected by Statistics Canada. Approval of an ethics board by the authors of this manuscript was not necessary.

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Murphy, C., Hesson, J. & Connolly, R. The Positive Side of Things: Examining Factors that Predict Positive Mental Health in Individuals with Problematic Substance Use. J. Psychosoc. Rehabil. Ment. Health (2023).

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