Applied Research in Quality of Life

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 459–471

Mental Health in Late Adulthood: What Can Preserve It?

  • Maria Chiara Fastame
  • Maria Pietronilla Penna
  • Paul Kenneth Hitchcott


The current research investigates the part played by several socio-demographic factors, lifestyle and cognitive efficiency in predicting self-rated depressive signs in late adulthood. One hundred and ninety-one healthy adults were recruited in Northern Italy and Sardinia—an Italian island located in the Mediterranean sea known for the longevity of its elderly people—from urban and rural areas. Participants were assigned to old (60–74 years) and very old (75–99 years) groups, and were administered cognitive efficiency and self-referent depression measures. Gender and region of residence were the best predictors of self-rated depression scores. Furthermore, Sardinian participants, especially those from rural areas, showed better preserved mental health than respondents from Northern Italy. Positive aging is more evident in Sardinia, especially in rural areas, where the maintenance of an adequate social status and physical activity help guarantee a positive level of mental health in later life.


Aging Depression Predictors Mental health Rural Urban 


  1. Baltes, P. B., & Staudinger, U. M. (2000). Wisdom: a metaheuristic (pragmatic) to orchestrate mind and virtue toward excellence. American Psychologist, 55, 122–136. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beekman, A. T., Copeland, J. R., & Prince, M. J. (1999). Review of community prevalence of depression in later life. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 174, 307–311. doi:10.1192/bjp.174.4.307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brilman, E. I., & Ormel, J. (2000). Life events, difficulties and onset of depressive episodes in later life. Psychological Medicine, 31, 859–869. doi:10.1017/S0033291701004019.Google Scholar
  4. Carpaniello, B., Carta, M. G., & Rudas, N. (1989). Depression among elderly. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 5, 445–450. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.1989.tb03004.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caselli, G., & Lipsi, R. M. (2006). Survival differences among the oldest old in Sardinia: who, what, where, and why? Demographic Research, 14, 267–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cervilla, J. A., & Prince, M. J. (1997). Cognitive impairment and social distress as different pathways to depression in the elderly. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 12, 995–1000. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1166(199710)12:10<995::AID-GPS673>3.0.CO;2-O. ISSN: 0885–6230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chodzko-Zajko, W. J., Proctor, D. N., Fiatarone Singh, M. A., Minson, C. T., Nigg, C. R., Salem, G. J., et al. (2009). Exercise and physical activity for older adults. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 41(7), 1510–1530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Djernes, J. K. (2006). Prevalence and predictors of depression inpopulations of elderly: a review. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 113, 372–387. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2006.00770.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Eller, C. (2011). The myth of a matriarchal prehistory. Boston: Beacon.Google Scholar
  10. Fastame, M. C. (2014). Exploring the effect of depressive symptoms and ageing on metamemory in an Italian adult sample. Psychology, Health and Medicine, 19(2), 127–135. doi:10.1080/13548506.2013.802360.
  11. Fastame, M. C., & Penna, M. P. (2012). Does social desirability confound the assessment of self-reported measures of wellness and metacognitive efficiency in young and older adults? Clinical Gerontologist, 35(3), 239–256. doi:10.1080/07317115.2012.660411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fastame, M. C., Penna, M. P., Leone, B., & Puddu, C. (2011). The role of social desirability in the assessment of mnestic and metacognitive efficiencies in adulthood: a preliminary study. European Psychiatry, 26(Suppl. 1), 1175. doi:10.1016/S0924-9338(11)72880-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fastame, M. C., Penna, M. P., Rossetti, E. S., & Agus, M. (2014). The effect of age and socio-cultural factors on self-rated well-being and metacognitive and mnestic efficiency among healthy elderly people. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 9, 325–334. doi:10.1007/s11482-013-9238-6.
  14. Fava, G. A. (1983). Assessing depressive symptoms across cultures: Italian validation of the CES-D self-rating scale. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 39, 249–251. doi:10.1002/1097-4679(198303)39:2<249:AID-JCLP2270390218>3.0.CO;2-Y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Folstein, M. F., Folstein, S. E., & McHugh, P. R. (1975). Mini-mental state. A practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 12, 189–198. doi:10.1016/0022-3956(75)90026-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ganguli, M., Mulsant, B., Richards, S., Stoehr, G., & Mendelsohn, A. (1997). Antidepressant use over time in a rural older adult population: the MoVIES Project. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 45, 1501–1503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gao, S., Yinlong, J., Unverzagt, F. W., Liang, C., Hall, K. S., Ma, F., et al. (2009). Correlates of depressive symptoms in rural elderly Chinese. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 24(12), 1358–1366. doi:10.1002/gps.2271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gostynski, M., Ajdacic-Gross, V., Gutzwiller, F., Michel, J. P., & Herrman, F. (2002). Depression bei Betagten in der Schweitz. Nervenartz, 73, 851–860.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hybels, C. F., Blazer, D. G., & Pieper, C. F. (2001). Toward a threshold for subthreshold depression: an analysis of correlates of depression by severity of symptoms using data from an elderly community sample. Gerontologist, 41, 357–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Martin, K. A., Leary, M. R., & Rejeski, W. J. (2000). Self-presentational concerns in older adults: implications for health and well-being. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, special issue. The Social Psychology of Aging, 22(3), 169–79. doi:10.1207/S15324834BASP2203_5.Google Scholar
  21. Minicuci, N., Maggi, S., Pavan, S., Enzi, G., & Crepaldi, G. (2002). Prevalence rate and correlates of depressive symptoms in older individuals: the Veneto study. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Science, 57A(3), M155–M161. doi:10.1093/gerona/57.3.M155.Google Scholar
  22. Orsini, A., & Laicardi, C. (1997). WAIS-R. Contributo alla taratura italiana [Contribution to the Italian calibration]. Florence: O.S. Organizzazioni Speciali.Google Scholar
  23. Ostergaard, S. D., & Foldager, L. (2011). The association between physical illness and major depressive episode in general practice. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 123(4), 290–296. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2010.01668.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pàlsson, S. P., Östling, S., & Skoog, I. (2001). The incidence of first-onset depression in a population followed from the age of 70 to 85. Psychological Medicine, 31, 1159–1168. doi:10.1017/S0033291701004524.Google Scholar
  25. Paterniti, S., Verdier-Taillefer, M.-H., Dufouil, C., & Alpérovitch, A. (2002). Depressive symptoms and cognitive decline in elderly people longitudinal study. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 181, 406–410. doi:10.1192/bjp.181.5.406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Poulain, M., Pes, G. M., Grasland, C., Carru, C., Ferrucci, L., Baggio, G., et al. (2004). Identification of a geographic area characterized by extreme longevity in the Sardinia Island: the AKEA study. Experimental Gerontology, 39, 1423–1429. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2004.06.016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D Scale: a self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401. doi:10.1177/014662167700100306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ross, C. E., & Mirowsky, J. (2006). Sex differences in the effect of education on depression: resource multiplication or resource substitution? Social Science & Medicine, 63(5), 1400–1413. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.03.013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Skoog, I. (1993). The prevalence of psychotic, depressive and anxiety syndromes in demented and non-demented 85-years old. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 8, 247–253. doi:10.1002/gps.930080308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Snowdon, J., & Lane, F. (1995). The Botany survey: a longitudinal study of depression and cognitive impairment in an elderly population. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 10, 349–358. doi:10.1002/gps.930100503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sonnenberg, C. M., Beekman, A. T. F., Deeg, D. J. H., & van Tilburg, W. (2001). Sex differences in late life depression. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 101, 286–292. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0447.2000.101004286.x.Google Scholar
  32. Steffens, D. C., Skoog, I., Norton, M. C., Hart, M. S., Tschanz, J. T., & Plassman, B. L. (2000). Prevalence of depression and its treatment in an elderly population the Cache County study. Archives of General Psychiatry, 57(6), 601–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Swenson, C. J., Baxter, J., Shetterly, S. M., Scarbro, S. L., & Hamman, R. F. (2000). Depressive symptoms in Hispanic and non-Hispanic White rural elderly. The San Luis Valley Health and Aging Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 152, 1048–1055. doi:10.1093/aje/152.11.1048.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wechsler, D. (1974). Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale Revised (WAIS-R)-third edition. San Antonio: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  35. Yan, X. Y., Huang, S. M., Wu, W. H., & Qin, Y. (2011). Marital status and risk for late life depression: a meta-analysis of the published literature. The Journal of International Medical Research, 39, 1142–1154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Chiara Fastame
    • 1
  • Maria Pietronilla Penna
    • 1
  • Paul Kenneth Hitchcott
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Pedagogy, Psychology, PhilosophyUniversity of CagliariCagliariItaly
  2. 2.Department of PsychologySouthampton Solent UniversitySouthamptonUK

Personalised recommendations