Name:  Elisabeth Bailin Xie                                    

Area of Study:  Personality / Social

In what program are you currently enrolled?


What year of the program are you currently in?

2nd Year

Citation in APA format

Xie, E. B., & Burns, R. J. (in press). Optimism and depressive symptoms following a diabetes diagnosis: Results from the health and retirement study. Journal of Health Psychology.

Plain language abstract:

Depression is common among individuals with diabetes and contributes to poorer prognoses. Optimism is associated with enhanced mental health and protects against depressive symptoms. Although theoretical models, such as the engagement and disappointment models, suggest that the protective health benefits of optimism may not be uniform over time, most of the work examining links between optimism and depressive symptoms is limited by a 1-year follow-up. Therefore, the current prospective study (n = 328) tested if dispositional optimism, measured before a diabetes diagnosis, buffered against elevated depressive symptoms within the two and six years following diagnosis. After controlling for covariates and baseline depressive symptoms, optimism was inversely associated with depressive symptoms within two (B = -.30, p = .004) and six (B = -.29, p = .008) years of a diabetes diagnosis. Results suggest that optimism is a protective factor for comorbid depressive symptoms among people with diabetes.

How did the idea for this research come about? 

This paper emerged from an independent study that I conducted with Dr. Rachel Burns. Rachel studies the association between mental health and diabetes. Past research has explored the bidirectional link between diabetes and depression, and this research suggests that comorbid depression has negative implications for diabetes prognosis. For instance, individuals with both diabetes and depression are at greater risk of diabetes complications and have poorer metabolic control. Thus, we decided to examine potential protective factors. Optimism is a construct that I studied during my undergraduate degree and I wanted to explore whether optimism buffers against elevated depressive symptoms after a diabetes diagnosis. We pulled from the engagement and disappointment models, which suggest that optimism is protective for immune system functioning following short-term, but not long-term stressors. Given that living with diabetes can be stressful, this research also sought to extend these models to the context of mental health. We wanted to test whether or not the benefits of optimism before a diabetes diagnosis would be uniform over the 6 years following the diagnosis.

How did you collect the data for this project? 

Participants came from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which is a nationally representative longitudinal study of older adults living in the United States. Data on health, including self-reported diabetes status and depressive symptoms, are collected from HRS participants every two years through telephone or face-to-face interviews. In 2006, a random half of the HRS participants were asked to complete an enhanced in-person interview, which included a measure of optimism. The other half of the sample completed the same enhanced in-person interview in 2008. For more information on the HRS and its survey design, see:
Fisher, G. G., & Ryan, L. H. (2018). Overview of the Health and Retirement Study and introduction to the special issue. Work, Aging and Retirement, 4(1), 1-9.

Was the journal you published in the first journal you submitted this paper to?


Why did you choose this journal?

This research draws from positive psychology to explore health processes (depressive symptoms following a diabetes diagnosis), making the Journal of Health Psychology a good choice. We thought that our findings would be of interest to the readers of the journal because it suggests that optimism before a diabetes diagnosis may help protect against developing depressive symptoms following a diabetes diagnosis. This paper also encourages readers to consider how the benefits of optimism may or may not change over time.

How many other journals did you submit this paper to before it landed in the journal that eventually published your work?


What was your revision experience?

The revision experience was very helpful. We received thoughtful feedback and words of encouragement from the reviewers. Their comments and suggestions certainly helped to strengthen the paper. Some of the comments that reviewers made involved the statistics and demographics that we should include, the ways in which we should discuss the results, and the papers that we referenced.

How many rounds of revision did you experience?


Did you need to collect new data to satisfy a reviewer?


How long did it take from first submission to acceptance? 

3 months

Was this paper conducted as part of your MA thesis?


Was this paper conducted as part of your PhD dissertation?


How did this project come about?

This paper emerged from an independent study that I conducted with Dr. Rachel Burns during my first year in the MA program.

Was this research conducted with your supervisor?


Was this research conducted with fellow graduate students in our program? 


Was this research conducted with researchers external to Carleton?