Depressive Symptom Trajectories after an Unexplained Loss in Later Life: The Role of Locus of Control

Scott M. Lynch, Princeton University
Sarah O. Meadows, RAND Corporation

The propensity to experience the loss of a spouse, other family member, or friend increases exponentially across age just as one's own risk of mortality increases. Previous research finds that growth in the experience of such loss-events is strongly related to the well-known increase in depressive symptoms in later life. We investigate: (1) whether the expectedness of a loss event mediates the relationship between the event and its long-term mental health consequences and (2) whether locus of control moderates the role the expectedness of the event plays. We hypothesize that: (1) expected events have less impact on long-term mental health trajectories than unexpected events, and (2) persons with stronger internal locus of control experience fewer mental health consequences from unexpected events than those with external locus of control. We investigate the hypotheses using growth models of data from a multiwave study of elders in North Carolina, Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly.

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Presented in Session 32: Social Factors and Mental Health in Late Life