Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 153–163 | Cite as

Predictions get tougher in older individuals: a longitudinal study of optimism, pessimism and depression

  • Diana ArmbrusterEmail author
  • Lars Pieper
  • Jens Klotsche
  • Jürgen Hoyer
Original Paper



To examine whether optimism/pessimism reliably predicts depression and whether such function is stable also in older age.


In a prospective study, we observed a representative sample of n = 4,046 primary care patients over 5 years. The Life Orientation Test (LOT-R, measuring optimism/pessimism) and the Depression-Screening Questionnaire were applied. Medical diagnoses were recorded by the treating physician in a structured medical interview.


Depression could only be predicted by LOT-R scores in younger-age cohorts. In older adults, test stability and predictive accuracy of optimism/pessimism were markedly reduced, while somatic comorbidity gained importance as a predictor.


Predictive value of screening measures for mental disorders may be specific in older age due to lower trait stability and age-specific psychometric limitations as well as age-related changes in relevant predictors.


Optimism–pessimism LOT-R Age groups Depression Predictive accuracy 



DETECT (Diabetes Cardiovascular Risk-Evaluation: Targets and Essential Data for Commitment of Treatment) is a cross-sectional and prospective longitudinal, nationwide clinical epidemiological study. DETECT is supported by an unrestricted educational grant of Pfizer Inc., Karlsruhe, Germany. Members of the DETECT Study group include—principal investigator: Professor Dr. H.-U. Wittchen; staff members: Dipl.-Psych. L. Pieper, Dipl.-Math. J. Klotsche, Dipl.-Psych. T. Eichler, Dr. H. Glaesmer, E. Katze, Dipl.-Psych. A. Bayer, Dipl.-Psych. A. Neumann. Steering Committee: Professor Dr. H. Lehnert (Lübeck), Professor Dr. G. K. Stalla (Munich), Professor Dr. M. A. M. Zeiher (Frankfurt), Professor Dr. M. Wehling (Mannheim). Advisory Board: Professor Dr. W. März (Graz), Professor Dr. S. Silber (Munich), Professor Dr. Dr. U. Koch (Hamburg) and Priv.-Doz. Dr. D. Pittrow (Munich/Dresden).

Conflict of interest

JH has received speaker’s honoraria from Astra Zeneca. All other authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

127_2014_959_MOESM1_ESM.doc (235 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 235 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana Armbruster
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lars Pieper
    • 2
  • Jens Klotsche
    • 3
    • 4
  • Jürgen Hoyer
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Personality and Individual DifferencesTechnische Universitaet DresdenDresdenGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Clinical Psychology and PsychotherapyTechnische Universitaet DresdenDresdenGermany
  3. 3.German Rheumatism Research CenterLeibniz InstituteBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health EconomicsCharité-University MedicineBerlinGermany

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