Study: Impact of Gratitude on depression, suicidal ideation, and self-esteem

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

One definition of gratitude is a state of mind where one feels and expresses thankfulness consistently over time and across situations (1).

In a previous post, we reviewed the role of specific gratitude exercise on happiness, stress, and depression (2, 3).

A recent study looked at the relationship of a person’s gratitude levels on depression, suicidal-ideation, and self-esteem among college students.

What did the study involve?
• 814 college students, with a mean age of 20.13 years (4).

• Participants completed questionnaires measuring gratitude, depression, suicidal ideation, and self esteem (4).
• The relationship between these four factors was analyzed (4).

What did the results show? (4)
• Participants with higher levels of gratefulness tended to have a higher level of self-esteem (4).
• Higher self-esteem decreased suicidal-ideation (4).
• Participants with higher levels of gratefulness tended to be less depressed, which also reduced suicidal-ideation (4).

What are some caveats?
• This was a small study looking at correlations, which does not necessarily tell us about cause and effect (causation).
• Specific factors that increased the gratitude of participants was not examined.
• Individual responses may vary.

Where can I learn more about gratitude?

Here is a link on a specific gratitude exercise:


What are some resources to improve depression?

Counseling at the OSU Student Life Counseling and Consultation Service
Holiday stress article from the Mayo Clinic
Mindfulness and Body scan techniques at the OSU Wexner Medical Center
Depression information at the National Institute of Mental Health
Anonymous mental health screen
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Could gratitude practices help you feel better?

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.


  1. Emmons, R. A. & Crumpler, C. A. (2000). Gratitude as a human strength:
    Appraising the evidence. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 19, 56–69.
  3. Oleary K, Dockray S. The Effects of Two Novel Gratitude and Mindfulness Interventions on Well-Being. THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE. Volume 21, Number 4, 2015, pp. 243–245.
  4. Lin CC. The relationships among gratitude, self-esteem, depression, and suicidal
    ideation among undergraduate students.  Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 2015, 56, 700–707. DOI: 10.1111/sjop.12252