“I Get by With a Little Help From My Friends”: Posttraumatic Growth in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Emma-Louise Northfield, Kim Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The aftermath of a trauma may be commonly associated with negative outcomes; however, these experiences can also lead to positive personal changes, including posttraumatic growth (PTG). Little research has explored PTG in relation to chronic or vicarious trauma, nor with regard to the social context. The current study investigated the role of perceived social support in moderating psychological distress and PTG during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cross-sectional data were collected online using CloudResearch from 296 adults residing in the United States of America during August 2020. A strong positive relationship was found between impact of trauma and PTG (r =.54; p <.001). Moderated multiple regression indicated psychological distress, perceived social support, age, gender, ethnicity, and education accounted for 39% of the variance in PTG; however, a significant positive relationship was only found between social support and PTG. The interaction between social support and psychological distress was significant (p =.021), with slope indicating the relationship between distress and PTG is strengthened with increasing social support. Contrary to expectations, this study found a significant relationship existed between PTG and perceived support from friends (β =.23; p =.001) and family (β =.14, p =.044), but not significant others. Age also predicted PTG, suggesting younger people may experience higher growth, and significant mean differences were found between Caucasian and African American participants who reported higher levels of PTG. These findings have potential implications for improving mental health outcomes during this challenging and novel period of our history.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-201
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Covid-19 pandemic
  • Posttraumatic growth
  • Psychological distress
  • Social support
  • Trauma

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