Goal Disengagement, Functional Disability, and Depressive Symptoms in Old Age

Erin Dunne*, Carsten Wrosch, Gregory E. Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Objectives: This longitudinal study examined the associations between older adults' goal adjustment capacities (i.e., goal disengagement and goal reengagement capacities), functional disability, and depressive symptoms. It was expected that goal disengagement capacities would prevent an adverse effect of heightened functional disability on increases in depressive symptoms. Method: Multivariate regression analyses were conducted, using four waves of data from a six-year longitudinal study of 135 community-dwelling older adults (>60 years old). Results: Depressive symptoms and functionality disability increased over time. Moreover, poor goal disengagement capacities and high levels of functional disability forecasted six-year increases in depressive symptoms. Finally, goal disengagement buffered the association of functional disability with increases in depressive symptoms. No associations were found for goal reengagement capacities. Conclusion: The findings suggest an adaptive role for goal disengagement capacities in older adulthood. When confronted with increases in functional disability, the capacity to withdraw effort and commitment from unattainable goals can help protect older adults from experiencing long-term increases in depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)763-770
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Depressive symptoms
  • Functional disability
  • Goal adjustment
  • Successful aging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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