Resilience as Mediator between Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Depressive Symptoms in University Students

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Siobhan McDonnell, Maria Semkovska


The prevalence of depression in university students is greater than in the general population. Previous studies have demonstrated that high levels of neuroticism and low levels of extraversion are linked to depression in students, and that resilience buffers against depression, though theorists have debated conceptualizing resilience as a process or a trait. However, past research has not examined the interaction between personality and resilience on depressive symptoms, especially when controlling for stressful life events (SLEs). To investigate this, Irish university students completed online scales measuring resilience as a trait, resilience as a process, extraversion, neuroticism, recent SLEs, and depressive symptoms. Resilience, both when measured as a trait and as a process, acted as a mediator in the relationships between extraversion and depressive symptoms and between neuroticism and depressive symptoms. Participants scoring high in extraversion tended to score higher in resilience, which predicted lower depressive symptoms. Inversely, participants scoring high in neuroticism tended to have lower levels of resilience, which predicted greater depressive symptoms. Although there remained a direct effect of neuroticism on depressive symptoms, there was no longer a direct effect of extraversion on depressive symptoms after accounting for resilience. Stressful life events did not mediate the relationships between personality and depressive symptoms. These results suggest that counseling interventions promoting resilience would be more effective in people with low levels of extraversion than for individuals high in neuroticism.

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