Status, role, and resource explanations for age patterns in psychological distress


Using data from the 1996 and 1998 General Social Surveys, we explore the relationships among age, age-linked personal and social qualities, and two measures of psychological distress: depression (1996) and generalized distress (1998). Our study has three aims: (1) to replicate the u-shaped age-distress relationship in two recent U.S. data sets, (2) to confirm and elaborate on the mediators of the parabolic association, and (3) to explore the possible suppressor effects. In 1996, depression decreases from young adulthood into midlife and increases among the oldest-old. Less education, lower control, and widow-hood contribute to old-age upturn; however, fewer time demands and greater financial satisfaction suppress the upward curve. Conversely, greater control, less shame, and greater religious attendance contribute to the decline through midlife; however, poorer health in midlife suppress that decline. Age patterns in distress are similar in the 1998 sample. Greater satisfaction with finances and fewer religious doubts contribute to the downward slope; however, declining levels of health suppress that downturn. Less education and retired status contribute to the old-age upturn. In sum, personal and social conditions have opposing influences on the parabolic relationship between age and distress.



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Journal of Health and Social Behavior


American Sociological Association

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