Background: Distress tolerance (DT) has been proposed as a possible contributor to the ability to successfully adhere to difficult behaviour changes, such as stopping problematic substance and cigarette use. A number of measures of DT have been used in attempts to predict behaviour change outcomes. Findings however, have been inconclusive and no one measure has shown consistent results. Importantly, no work has yet assessed the predictive value of DT measures in successful weight loss.
Aims: To identify individuals at the extreme ends of the successful (N=34) and unsuccessful (N=34) weight loss continuum to see if DT measures differentiated between the two groups. Additionally, to examine associations between measures of DT and a battery of life stress measures.
Results: A self-report measure of DT discriminated between the successful-unsuccessful subgroups, but a logistic regression model demonstrated a low predictive power of 68% for this measure (P=0.02, odds ratio=1.8, 95% CI=1.13.3). No DT measures previously found be to predictive in alcohol, substance use or cigarette smoking were predictive of weight loss success. Loneliness and depression symptoms differed between the subgroups (ps<0.05) and showed associations with the self-report DT measure (ps<0.001).
Conclusions: Links between the DT measure and successful behaviour change were only modest. DT may not be a major contributor to successful weight loss or the existing measures do not assess it well. Loneliness and depression are related to unsuccessful attempts at behaviour change but the direction of the relationship requires further clarification.