Positive Psychological Factors and Life Themes in Relation to Health Outcomes in Women Living with HIV

Leslie R. Brody, Yudelki Firpo-Perretti, Dana Bruck-Segal, Sannisha K. Dale, Elizabeth G. Ruffing, Clair Cassiello-Robbins, Kathleen M. Weber, Mardge H. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: This mixed methods study identified positive psychological factors and life themes expressed in autobiographical narratives of predominantly Black women living with HIV (WLWH) and investigated these in relation to depressive symptoms, antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence (≥ 95% of time), and undetectable HIV viral load (VL) (< 80 copies/ml). Method: Ninety-eight WLWH from the Women’s Interagency HIV Study Chicago site (M age = 45.3; 91% Black) narrated three autobiographical life turning points, reliably coded for positive factors and life themes. ART adherence, VL and depressive symptoms, assessed with Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale total score (TOT) including its four factors (negative affect (NA), positive affect (PA), somatic symptoms (SS), and interpersonal problems (IP)), were collected over two time points: concurrently with narratives and 6 months later. Composite scores across the two time points were used in all analyses. Results: Ten positive psychological factors (gratitude, insight, compassion, meaning-making, acceptance, mindfulness, generativity, optimism, self-reliance, and benevolent God beliefs) and three positive life themes (health improvements, positive relationships, and accomplishments) were identified in narratives. Higher accomplishments, overall positive factors, insight, mindfulness, self-reliance, optimism, meaning-making, and acceptance related to lower depressive symptoms (TOT, NA, SS, or IP). Positive factors and life themes did not significantly relate to PA. Higher compassion related to higher ART adherence. Higher accomplishments related to undetectable VL independent of ART adherence. Conclusion: Findings that positive psychological factors and life accomplishments may relate to better health, especially to lower depression, potentially contribute to developing positive psychology interventions for Black WLWH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational journal of behavioral medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Adherence
  • Coping
  • Depression
  • HIV
  • Positive affect
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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