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Publication - Dr Oliver Davis

    Moderators of Wellbeing Interventions

    Why Do Some People Respond More Positively Than Others?


    Wang, RAH, Nelson-Coffey, SK, Layous, K, Bao, KJ, Davis, OS & Haworth, C, 2017, ‘Moderators of Wellbeing Interventions: Why Do Some People Respond More Positively Than Others?’. PLoS ONE, vol 12.


    Interventions rarely have a universal effect on all individuals. Reasons ranging from participant characteristics, context and fidelity of intervention completion could cause some people to respond more positively than others. Understanding these individual differences in intervention response may provide clues to the mechanisms behind the intervention, as well as inform future designs to make interventions maximally beneficial for all. Here we focus on an intervention designed to improve adolescent wellbeing, and explore potential moderators using a representative and well-powered sample. 16-year old participants (N=932) in the Twins Wellbeing Intervention Study logged online once a week to complete control and wellbeing-enhancing activities consecutively. Throughout the study participants also provided information about a range of potential moderators of intervention response including demographics, seasonality, personality, baseline characteristics, activity fit, and effort. As expected, some individuals gained more from the intervention than others; we used multi-level modelling to test for moderation effects that could explain these individual differences. Of the 15 moderators tested, none significantly explained individual differences in intervention response in the intervention and follow-up phases. Self-reported effort and baseline positive affect had a notable effect in moderating response in the control phase, during which there was no overall improvement in wellbeing and mental health. Our results did not replicate the moderation effects that have been suggested by previous literature and future work needs to reconcile these differences. They also show that factors that have previously been shown to influence baseline wellbeing do not also influence an individual’s ability to benefit from a wellbeing intervention. Although future research should continue to explore potential moderators of intervention efficacy, our results suggest that the beneficial effect of positive activities in adolescents were universal across such factors as sex and socioeconomic status, bolstering claims of the scalability of positive activities to increase adolescent wellbeing.

    Full details in the University publications repository