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Open Access Study protocol

Happy@Work: protocol for a web-based randomized controlled trial to improve mental well-being among an Asian working population

Qi Yuan, Su Liu*, Szehang Tang and Dexing Zhang

Author Affiliations

JC School of Public Health and Primary Care, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong SAR

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:685  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-685

Published: 4 July 2014



Mental health issues pose a serious concern in the workplace for the huge productivity loss and financial burden associated with it. Unlike the traditional ‘fixing-what-is-wrong’ approach, positive psychology offers a less-stigmatized way to promote mental health. Psychological capital, a concept originated from positive psychology, has been proven effective in improving mental well-being and work performance. However, little evidence exists for its implementation among Asian working population or its cost-benefit for organizations adopting such promotion strategy. The current study is designed to assess the protective effects of a web-based psychology capital intervention among Hong Kong working population on individuals’ mental health and work performance, as well as organizations’ return-on-investment.


A two-arm randomized controlled trial design will be adopted. Eligible working adults will be randomly allocated to either the intervention group or the waiting-list control group, with 177 participants in each arm. The intervention, which consists of four web-based training sessions, each targeting one of the psychological capital components (hope, efficacy, optimism and resilience), will be implemented over a 4-week period. On-line surveys will assess the participants in each group at baseline, intervention completion, 1 and 3 months after the completion. The primary outcome is individuals’ psychological capital level; secondary outcomes include individuals’ well-being, depressive symptoms, work engagement and productivity. Return-on-investment will be calculated from the employers’ perspective based on productivity gain, savings in medical expenditure, as well as operation and time costs. Analysis will follow the intention-to-treat principle.


This is the first experimental study that explores the applicability of psychological capital development among Asian population. Through investigating changes in individuals’ work productivity from absenteeism and presenteeism, this will be one of the few studies that quantify productivity gains from any type of mental health promotion. By demonstrating effectiveness in improving mental well-being and a positive return-on-investment rate, the study may help convince more uptake of similar positive psychology interventions at workplace in Asia and elsewhere.

Trail Registration

Number (assigned by Centre for Clinical Trials, Clinical Trials Registry, The Chinese University of Hong Kong): CUHK_CCT00396. Registration Date: 2014/02/13

Mental health; Promotion; Positive psychology; Psychological capital; Return-on-investment; Working population; Hong Kong