Nostalgic Emotional Valence and Its Effects on Help-Seeking in Depression. An Application of the Theory of Planned Behavior

Syed Ali Hussain, Saleem Alhabash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In times of distress, people show a tendency to remember the ‘good old days,’ a bittersweet emotion called Nostalgia. This study advances the role of nostalgic emotions to influence help-seeking intentions in depression. Depression is a critical public health concern, which can be mitigated by seeking professional psychological help. Several communication researchers have studied this area to improve help-seeking intentions through message design and evaluation. This study investigates the use of nostalgic valence: positive, negative, and coactive to influence help-seeking behavioral intentions. Using the theory of planned behavior (TPB) as a guiding framework, the study examined the effects of nostalgic valence on emotions, attitude, perceived behavioral control, and subjective norms to seek help. The study recruited 366 participants, experiencing mild to severe levels of depression, from Amazon Mechanical Turk. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the three video conditions: positive, negative, or coactive nostalgia. The study resulted in two distinct findings. First, we found that positive, negative, and coactive nostalgic messages lead to different levels of emotional responses. Specifically, the coactive nostalgic condition resulted in the least positive emotional response. Second, these different levels of emotional responses are correlated with perceived behavioral control, and descriptive norms that mediated the effects of nostalgia on help-seeking intentions. The main contribution of our study is to inform health communicators about the complexity of persuading people with depression to seek help via nostalgic emotional appeals. Theoretical implications of the study in context with emotion infusion are discussed, and practical implications for interventions to design depression-related help seeking campaigns are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Communication
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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