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Do you enjoy self help books? A recent visit to a nearby bookstore revealed shelf after shelf of books on confidence, happiness, finding inner peace, etc. A recent study from the University of Montreal concluded that reading self help books is NOT correlated with increases in emotional or mental stability. Their study divided readers of self help books into two categories: those who read problem focused books and those who read growth oriented titles. The researchers then measured salivary cortisol levels (stress reactivity), self-esteem, depressive symptoms, openness, self discipline, extroversion, compassion, and emotional stability.  They found that the readers of problem-focused titles had greater depressive symptoms and the growth-oriented readers showed increased stress reactivity when compared to non-consumers.

Of course, this sort of study design makes it impossible to know which direction the relationship goes. The researchers wondered if reading self help books leads people to experience greater symptoms of depression and high stress reactivity or if people who are depressed and stressed seek out self help books. I can't help but wonder: are people with symptoms of depression more likely to be drawn to titles that are in keeping with their outlook on the world (problem focused titles) and are those with perfectionism (growth oriented titles) more inclined to feel stress as a result of never achieving Impossibly high standards?

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