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Relationship among physical impairment, distress, and well-being in older adults


The relationship between activity limitation and self-report on a variety of mental health measures was investigated through a longitudinal study of 124 noninstitutionalized older adults between 60 and 80 years of age, recruited either as recently disabled (N=62) or as a matched control (N=62). Fifty-five of these respondents (disabled, n=28; controls, n=27) selected persons who could be contacted to provide informant information. Results showed the relationship between disability and mental health measures to be highly significant and stable across time. Further older adults classified as severely disabled experienced higher levels of anxiety, suicidal ideation, and overall distress than did the moderately disabled participants. Evidence was found for reciprocal causal relationships between health and mental health. Informants' reports supported findings based on self-report.

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Zautra, A.J., Maxwell, B.M. & Reich, J.W. Relationship among physical impairment, distress, and well-being in older adults. J Behav Med 12, 543–557 (1989).

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Key words

  • elderly
  • physical disability
  • psychological distress