Physical health problems, depressive mood, and cortisol secretion in old age: Buffer effects of health engagement control strategies

Carsten Wrosch*, Richard Schulz, Gregory E. Miller, Sonia Lupien, Erin Dunne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: This study examined the protective role played by control behaviors aimed at overcoming physical health problems (health engagement control strategies; HECS) in the associations between older adults' physical health problems, depressive mood, and diurnal cortisol secretion. It was expected that adaptive levels of HECS would buffer the adverse effects of physical health problems on depressive mood and diurnal cortisol secretion. Design and Measures: Physical health problems and HECS were measured in a cross-sectional sample of 215 community-dwelling older adults. In addition, participants' depressive mood and patterns of diurnal cortisol secretion were assessed across 3 days. Results: The findings demonstrate that physical health problems predicted high levels of depressive mood and diurnal cortisol secretion, but only among older adults who reported low levels of HECS (and not among older adults who reported high levels of HECS). Moreover, depressive mood completely mediated the buffering effect of HECS on the association between physical health problems and cortisol secretion. Conclusion: The results suggest that adaptive levels of HECS represent a psychological mechanism that can protect older adults from experiencing the adverse emotional and biological consequences of physical health problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-349
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Psychology
Volume26
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2007

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Control
  • Cortisol
  • Depression
  • Health engagement control strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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