The Relationships between Positive Character Traits, Virtues, and Health

Main Article Content

Dong Pil Yoon
Patricia Bruininks
Erin I. Smith
Charlotte V.O. Witvliet
Daniel Cohen
Laird R.O. Edman
Joseph Bankard
Katherine Little
Brick Johnstone


virtue, altruism, hope, humility, gratitude, empathy, forgiveness, factor analysis


Virtues and character traits are increasingly recognized as impacting health outcomes, although distinctions between these constructs remain unclear. In order for Christian social workers to most effectively incorporate virtues-based interventions into their clinical practices, there is a need to identify the distinct nature of the different virtues and their relationships to health outcomes. In Part I, a principal components factor analysis of six character traits (i.e., altruism, empathy, forgiveness, gratitude, hope, and humility) based on 402 students primarily from Christian universities determined the empirical validity of these constructs (i.e., whether they are best conceptualized as distinct constructs, dimensions of higher order constructs, or one overall “goodness” virtue). Results identified 12 distinct character traits, suggesting a need to focus on specific character traits rather than general virtues. In Part II, hierarchical regressions indicated that personality variables predicted 37% of variance in mental health, with only gratitude and lack of resentment toward others (i.e., two of the 12 identified character traits) predicting an additional 8% of the variance (no variables predicted physical health). The results suggest the need to conceptualize character traits as distinct constructs, and that interventions to increase gratitude and reduce resentment may be most effective in improving mental health outcomes in Christian college students. 


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