Anhedonia in Adolescence: An experience sampling study

How do adolescents experience anhedonia in daily life? Little research has been done in the area of anhedonia in daily life, and little research had been done examining depressive symptoms – such as anhedonia – of adolescents 1.) over time and 2.) in daily life. Researchers from the Netherlands used experience sampling to examine these questions.

The researchers recruited students from high schools in early adolescence (13-16 years) and late adolescence (18-25 years) in order to see if anhedonia was experienced differently in the different age groups.

They handled the technology in the groups a little differently:

In early adolescence, they gave the participants a smartphone that used an experience sampling system. In late adolescence, the participants had the choice of using a PDA or their own smartphone that received internet-based texts.

The participants were asked the following questions on rating scales:


  • “Thoughts of ending your life”
  • “Feeling lonely”
  • “Feeling blue”
  • “Feeling hopeless about the future”
  • “Feelings of worthlessness”
  • “Feeling no interest in things” (Anhedonia)

Positive Affect

  • I feel
    • Cheerful
    • Relaxed
    • Content
    • Energetic

Positive Events

  • What was the most important event that had happened since their last response, and whether it was very unpleasant (-3), neutral (0), or very pleasant (+3)

In the end, they found that depressive symptoms were related to

  • Fewer “pleasant experiences”
  • Lower positive affect
  • Lower intensity of positive events
  • Higher variability in positive affect

And did not vary by early or late adolescence. Further, these observations were not mediated by anhedonia. The participants were still able to feel pleasure when they experienced pleasant experiences. These individuals experienced them less often.

The researchers suggested that future interventions might include encouraging adolescents to engage in more pleasurable activities.


van Roekel, E., Bennik, E. C., Bastiaansen, J. A., Verhagen, M., Ormel, J., Engels, R. C., & Oldehinkel, A. J. (2015).

Depressive symptoms and the experience of pleasure in daily life: an exploration of associations in early and late adolescence. 

Journal of abnormal child psychology, 1-11.


Want to Learn More?