Favorable attitudes, emotions, personality characteristics, and self-rated health have been associated with successful aging in late life. However, less is known regarding these constructs and their relationships to mental health outcomes in the oldest old persons. This study examined cross-sectional relationships of these psychological factors to depressive symptoms in centenarians and near-centenarians.
A selected sample of Ashkenazi Jewish older adults ages 98 to 107 (n = 54, 78% female) without significant cognitive impairment participated. Cognitive function was assessed by Mini Mental Status Exam (MMSE), Positive Attitude Towards Life and Emotional Expression by the Personality Outlook Profile Scale (POPS), self-rated health by participants’ subjective rating of their present health, and depressive symptoms by the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS).
Results demonstrated inverse associations of the Positive Attitude Towards Life domain of the POPS and self-rated health with participants’ levels of depressive symptoms even after adjusting for the effects of history of medical illnesses, cognitive function, and demographic variables. Additionally, participants with high levels of care showed higher levels of depressive symptoms. Path analysis supported the partially mediating role of Positive Attitude Towards Life in the relationship between self-rated health and depressive symptoms.
These findings emphasized the important roles of positive attitudes and emotions as well as self-rated health in mental health outcomes in the oldest old. Although, limited by its cross-sectional design, findings suggest these psychological factors may exert protective effects on mental health outcomes in advanced age.