Communication of Positive Emotions in Health Care Communication

A researcher project by Lena Heyn.

Positive emotions alter people´s mindset and bodily systems, and predict a variety of meaningful outcomes warranting more attention in health care. Positive emotions include pleasant or desirable situational responses increasing well-being in the moment by triggering upward spirals of cognitions and actions improving the capacity to cope with adversities experienced in the course of daily living. Thus, being able to mobilize positive emotions is an important part of resilience. Positive emotions have an impact not only because they may reduce negative emotions, but most of all because it triggers a multitude of benefits on a cognitive as well as on a physiological level. Though they are situational, positive emotions can serve an adaptive function that lead to enduring personal resources. While the expression of positive emotions through communication has been studied in interpersonal psychology, it is surprising that it has been largely overlooked in the field of health care communication. We don´t know to what extent positive emotions are being expressed by patients and healthcare providers in consultations. The aim of this study is to identify the function of positive emotions in home healthcare visits.

Expressions of positive emotion were coded in audiotaped home healthcare visits with older adults. The coding system was derived from theoretically based tenets of positive emotion (Terrill, Ellington et al, 2017).  Seven positive emotion codes capture both content and emotion:  Humor, Praise/Support, Positive Focus, Appreciation/Gratitude, Savoring/Experiencing Joy, Connection and Perfunctory Statements.

Given the potential for clinicians to promote and support positive emotions in the response to a patient’s chronic illness, as a first step, it is important to create a map of existing literature in terms of its nature, features and volume. We are also mapping the literature by conducting a :


Heyn L, Ellington L, Eide H. An exploration of how positive emotions are expressed by older people and nurse assistants in homecare visits. Patient education and Counseling, Nov;100(11):2125-2127. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2017.05.020. Epub 2017 Jun 19

Van Dulmen S, Smits L, Eide H. Filling in memory gaps through emotional communication; promising pathways in caring for persons with dementia. Patient education and Counseling, 2017,


Research group

Lena Heyn, Associate professor, PhD, RN, Institute of Nursing and Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, University of South-Eastern Norway.

Stine Torp Løkkeberg, Associate professor, Ostfold University College.

Sandra van Dulmen, Professor, NIVEL, Science Center Health and Technology, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, University of South-Eastern Norway.

Lee Ellington, PhD, Associate Professor, College of Nursing, University of Utah.

Hilde Eide, Professor, PhD, RN, Science Center Health and Technology, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, University of South-Eastern Norway.