Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational and Counseling Psych

First Advisor

Dr. Rory Remer

Second Advisor

Dr. Pam Remer


Women suffer a high prevalence rate of several mental disorders. National U.S. data (N = 9,282) shows that 23.4% of women meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder, 8.6% for depression, and 11.6% for a mood disorder (Kessler et al., 2005). Compared to men, women are two times more likely to be depressed (Lewinsohn, Rhode, Seeley, & Baldwin, 2001) and two to three times more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders such as panic disorders, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorders, and Posttraumatic Stress (Kessler et al., 2005). Due to experiencing a high number of mental disorders, women’s psychological well-being (PWB) has been questioned (OWH, 2009).

Considerable research describes the negative influence psychological distress has on women’s lives, but little is understood of what constitutes PWB. Ryff (1989) proposed that existing models of mental health too often focus on illness and disorders, neglecting important aspects of positive functioning. This study was based on Ryff’s (1989) conceptualization that improved PWB would reflect the perception of functioning well in life (Ryff, 1989).

The purpose of the present study was to identify factors important in women’s PWB. Factors included: age, household income, education, marital status, race/ethnicity, perceived social support, psychological distress, and PWB. The design of the study was a secondary data analysis based on an existing study, “The Psychological Well-Being of Women Pre- and Post- a Breast Cancer Diagnosis.” Women recalled for a diagnostic mammogram, but not diagnosed, were included in the study (N = 2,746). Measures used included: a demographic questionnaire, Scales of psychological well-being (Ryff, 1989); Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scales (Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995); and a Visual Analog Scale of Perceived Social Support. Findings showed that income, education, and perceived social support showed statistically significant different PWB scores in the positive direction. Married women scored higher PWB scores than women of other types of marital status, but neither age nor race/ethnicity showed differences in outcome scores. Psychological distress and PWB were strongly and inversely correlated, suggesting that the constructs are more directly related than previously identified. Implications for therapeutic practice and future research are discussed.