Previous research has consistently linked poor problem-solving with depression and anxiety. However, much of this research has failed to directly assess real-life problem-solving, relying on self-appraisal or responses to hypothetical problems. This study examined real-life problem-solving in three groups of college students: non-depressed/non-anxious controls; anxious; and mixed depressed/anxious. Participants completed a diary of the interpersonal problems they encountered, and their attempts to solve them. Real-life social problem-solving was also assessed by asking participants to recall past problem solutions. Participants also completed the Social Problem-Solving Inventory-Revised (SPSI-R) and the Mean Ends Problem Solving (MEPS) task. The real-life problem-solving tasks revealed significant differences between the groups, with the mixed depression/anxiety participants exhibiting less effective strategies compared to the control group. However, there were no group differences in MEPS performance, or within the constructive problem-solving style component of the SPSI-R. No deficits were found within the anxious group. Both the anxious and the mixed depressed/anxious groups expressed negative attitudes towards problem-solving. Results have implications for social problem-solving research and suggest that current assessment procedures may be unable to detect impairments in real life problem-solving. Therefore a diary procedure where individuals record their response to the problems they encounter in everyday life may prove a valuable addition to the current battery of assessment procedures.
Anderson, R. J., Goddard, L., & Powell, J. H. (2009). Social problem-solving processes and mood in college students: An examination of self-report and performance-based approaches. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 33(2), 175-186. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-007-9169-3