Association of Increased Levels of Happiness with Reduced Levels of Tension and Anxiety after Mental Stress Testing in Japanese College Students


Previous studies from western countries have reported that happy individuals report lower levels of negative mood during and/or following mental stress testing; this finding has not been examined in Japan. This study examined the relationship between happiness, measured using the Subjective Happiness Scale (Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999), and negative moods (i.e., tension and anxiety) during and after mental stress testing in Japanese college students. Based on the findings of previous literature and inverse correlations between positive and negative moods, we hypothesized that participants with higher levels of happiness (the higher happiness group, or HG) show significantly lower levels of negative moods and higher levels of positive moods following mental stress testing, compared to participants with lower levels of happiness (the lower happiness group, or LG). Of a total of 392 Japanese undergraduates who participated in a screening survey, those whose scores were one standard deviation higher or lower than the average score were invited to participate in the experiment. Eight HG and nine LG students agreed to participate. A five-minute computerized mental arithmetic task was used to induce stress. The session comprised a five minute pre-task period, a five minute task, and a five minute post-task period. The levels of positive and negative moods during each period were measured retrospectively following each period. Heart rate was measured during the session. Participant heart rate levels and negative moods increased significantly from the pre-task to the task periods, and subsequently decreased during the post-task period. Levels of positive mood decreased from the pre-task to the task period. Negative moods were significantly lower in HGs than in LGs during the post-task period. These results partially supported the hypothesis whereby subjective happiness buffered the impact of stressors on negative moods by influencing post-stress negative mood levels.


Share and Cite:

Horiuchi, S. , Tsuda, A. , Toyoshima, N. , Aoki, S. & Sakano, Y. (2013). Association of Increased Levels of Happiness with Reduced Levels of Tension and Anxiety after Mental Stress Testing in Japanese College Students. Psychology, 4, 682-687. doi: 10.4236/psych.2013.49097.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Anderson, N. B., Nordal, K. C., Breckler, S. J., Ballard, D., Bufka, L., Bossolo, L. et al. (2010). Stress in America findings. American Psychological Association.
[2] Bostock, S., Hamer, M., Wawrzyniak, A. J., Mitchell, E. S., & Steptoe, A. (2011). Positive emotional style and subjective, cardiovascular and cortisol responses to acute laboratory stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 36, 1175-1183. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.02.009
[3] Brosschot, J. F., Gerin, W., & Thayer, J. F. (2006). The perseverative cognition hypothesis: A review of worry, prolonged stress-related physiological activation, and health. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 60, 113-124. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2005.06.074
[4] Brummett, B. H., Boyle, S. H., Kuhn, C. M., Siegler, I. C., & Williams, R. B. (2009). Positive affect is associated with cardiovascular reactivity, norepinephrine level, and morning rise in salivary cortisol. Psychophysiology, 46, 862-869. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8986.2009.00829.x
[5] Cabinet Office of Japan (2008). White paper on the national lifestyle 2008: Prospects for consumer citizenship.
[6] Campbell, A. (1981). The sense of well-being in America: Recent patterns and trends. New York: Mcgraw-Hill.
[7] Emmons, R. A. (1986). Personal strivings: An approach to personality and subjective well being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1058-1068. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.51.5.1058
[8] Greenberg, J. S. (2010). Comprehensive stress management (12th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Companies.
[9] Horiuchi, S., Tsuda, A., Hashimoto, E., Kai, H., & Wenjie, H. (2008). Effect of perceived happiness level on cardiac response to mental stress testing: A pilot study. Japanese Journal of Biofeedback Research, 35, 93-98.
[10] Horiuchi, S., Tsuda, A., Okamura, H., Yajima, J., & Steptoe, A. (2010). Differential elicitation of the salivary 3-Methoxy-4-hydro xyphenylglycol (MHPG) responses by mental stress testing. Japanese Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 16, 31-38.
[11] Kwan, V. S. Y., Bond, M. H., & Singelis, T. S. (1997). Pancultural explanations for life satisfaction: Adding relationship harmony to self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 1038-1051. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.73.5.1038
[12] Lazarus, R. S. (2009). Stress and emotion: A new synthesis. New York: Springer.
[13] Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.
[14] Lyubomirsky, S. (2000). Why are some people happier than others? The role of cognitive and motivational processes in well-being. American Psychologist, 56, 239-249. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.239
[15] Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. S. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: Preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social Indicators Research, 46, 137-155. doi:10.1023/A:1006824100041
[16] Lyubomirsky, S., & Ross, L. (1997). Hedonic consequences of social comparison: A contrast of happy and unhappy people. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 1147-1157. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.73.6.1141
[17] Lyubomirsky, S., Tkach, C., & DiMatteo, M. R. (2006). What are the differences between happiness and self-esteem? Social Indicators Research, 78, 363-404. doi:10.1007/s11205-005-0213-y
[18] Lyubomirsky, S., Tucker, K. L., & Kasri, F. (2001). Responses to hedonically conflicting social comparison: Comparing happy and unhappy people. European Journal of Social Psychology, 31, 511-535. doi:10.1002/ejsp.82
[19] Matsunaga, M., Murakami, H., Yamakawa, K., Isowa, T., Fukuyama, S., Shinoda, J. et al. (2011). Perceived happiness level influences evocation of positive emotions. Natural Science, 3, 723-727. doi:10.4236/ns.2011.38095
[20] Matthews, G., & Davies, D. R. (2001). Individual differences in energetic arousal and sustained attention: A dual-task study. Personality and Individual Differences, 31, 575-589. doi:10.1016/S0191-8869(00)00162-8
[21] Matthews, G., & Westerman, S. J. (1994). Energy and tension as predictors of controlled visual and memory search. Personality and Individual Differences, 17, 617-626. doi:10.1016/0191-8869(94)90134-1
[22] McEwen, B. S. (1998). Stress, adaptation, and disease: Allostasis and allostatic load. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 840, 33-44. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1998.tb09546.x
[23] Nelson, D., & Cooper, C. (2005). Stress and health: A positive direction. Stress and Health, 21, 73-75. doi:10.1002/smi.1053
[24] Okamura, H., Tsuda, A., & Yajima, J. (2004). Stress state questionnaire. In Public Research Center (Eds.), Stress scale guidebook (pp. 214-220). Tokyo: Jitsumukyoiku-Shuppan.
[25] Papousek, I., Nauschnegg, K., Paechter, M., Lackner, H. K., Goswami, N., & Schulter, G. (2010). Trait and state positive affect and cardiovascular recovery from experimental academic stress. Biological Psychology, 83, 108-115. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2009.11.008
[26] Schiffrin, H. H., & Nelson, S. K. (2010). Stressed and happy? Investigating the relationship between happiness and perceived stress. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11, 33-39. doi:10.1007/s10902-008-9104-7
[27] Schimmack, U., & Reisenzein, R. (2002). Experiencing activation: Energetic arousal and tense arousal are not mixtures of valence and activation. Emotion, 2, 412-417. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.2.4.412
[28] Shimai, S., Otake, K., Utsuki, N., Ikemi, A., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2004). Development of a Japanese version of the subjective happiness scale (SHS), and examination of its validity and reliability. Japanese Journal of Public Health, 51, 845-853.
[29] Stawski, R. S., Sliwinski, M. J., Almeida, D. M., & Smyth, J. M. (2008). Reported exposure and emotional reactivity to daily stressors: The roles of adult age and global perceived stress. Psychology and Aging, 23, 52-61. doi:10.1037/0882-7974.23.1.52
[30] Steptoe, A., Gibson, E. L., Hamer, M., & Wardle, J. (2007). Neuroendocrine and cardiovascular correlates of positive affect measured by ecological momentary assessment and by questionnaire. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 32, 56-64. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2006.10.001
[31] Uchida, Y., & Kitayama, S. (2009). Happiness and unhappiness in east and west: Themes and variations. Emotion, 9, 441-456. doi:10.1037/a0015634
[32] Uchida, Y., Kitayama, S., Mesquita, B., Reyes, J. A., & Morling, B. (2008). Is perceived emotional support beneficial? Well-being and health in independent and interdependent cultures. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 741-754. doi:10.1177/0146167208315157
[33] Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063-1070. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.54.6.1063
[34] Watts, J., & Robertson, N. (2011). Burnout in university teaching staff: A systematic literature review. Educational Research, 53, 33-50. doi:10.1080/00131881.2011.552235
[35] Waugh, C. E., Panage, S., Mendes, W. B., & Gotlib, I. H. (2010). Cardiovascular and affective recovery from anticipatory threat. Biological Psychology, 84, 169-175. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.01.010

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.