Campus Life Study: Harnessing Generativity Among Young Adults

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) logo

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)




Healthy Young Adults


Behavioral: Writing

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


Recent research suggests that short, online interventions can enhance well-being, which is beneficial to both physical and mental health outcomes. Further, growing evidence suggests that prosocial behavior-a behavior that can be reliably manipulated through a short online intervention-may have beneficial effects on well-being and physical health. Giving support to others appears to be just as beneficial as receiving support, and asking people to perform kind acts for others over the course of several weeks, for example, has been shown to both increase well-being and reduce the inflammatory potential of immune cells. The purpose of the current study is to test a novel 3-week, online prosocial writing-based intervention in a sample of young adults. Previous intervention studies have manipulated prosocial behavior by asking participants to perform tangible acts of kindness for others, such as writing a note to a coworker or helping a neighbor. However, providing this type of direct support can be logistically challenging and may contribute to increased feelings of distress in certain contexts. Writing interventions designed to elicit feelings of generativity offer one alternative approach, though they have yet to be tested among young adults. Participants (n = 200) will be randomized to one of two conditions--peer helping or a facts-only control--and instructed to write about their experiences in their first-year at UCLA (freshman or first-year after transfer). Those in the peer helping will be asked to write for the benefit of a student who is about to begin their first year, whereas those in the facts-only control will not. In total, participants will complete 4 writing assignments, each on a separate day over the course of one week. Valid self-report measures will be assessed at pre-intervention, each writing session, post-intervention, and at the 2-week follow-up. The investigators expect participants in the peer helping condition to experience a greater increase in well-being (primary outcome) across the intervention and the follow-up when compared to the control condition. Secondary outcomes will include depressive symptoms, anxiety, loneliness, physical symptoms, social support, and generativity. As an exploratory aim, will also assess several moderators (i.e., psychological distress, prosocial tendencies, generativity) and mediators (i.e., fulfillment of psychological needs, positive affect) of the intervention effects.


165 patients




18+ years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • enrolled in an upper-division psychology course
  • 18 years of age or older
  • fluent in English
  • access to the internet and email

Exclusion criteria


Trial design

Primary purpose

Basic Science



Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


None (Open label)

165 participants in 2 patient groups

Peer Helping Condition
Experimental group
Participants in the peer helping condition will be asked to write about their experiences in their first-year at UCLA (freshman or first-year after post-transfer), with an emphasis on using the experience to benefit someone who is about to be a first-year student.
Behavioral: Writing
Facts-only Control
Active Comparator group
Participants in the facts-only writing condition will be asked to write facts about their experiences in their first-year at UCLA (freshman or first-year post-transfer). Unlike the previous conditions, they will not be instructed to write for the benefit of another individual.
Behavioral: Writing

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from

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