Goal pursuits and mental health in later life Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/vm40xv15z

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  • Grounded in life span theory, this study explored how personal goals (as measured by possible selves) related to depressive symptoms in older adults. Possible selves represent individuals' ideas of what they would like to become (hoped-for selves) and what they are afraid of becoming (feared selves). Possible selves are also considered a dynamic aspect of the personality system that have the potential to elicit behavioral change. Because goals can moderate an individual's response to age related loss and promote positive adult development, older adults' ability to manage health and family related possible selves were examined. In addition, teleonomic relevance (i.e., how related one's current projects are to one's future goals) was investigated and associated with depressive symptoms. Eighty-five adults who ranged in age from 60 to 92 (M = 74) were recruited from two primary health care clinics and interviewed face-to-face by the researcher. Poisson regression models based on the count of depressive symptoms reported by participants were analyzed. The results provided initial evidence that the content of older adults' possible selves was associated with depressive symptoms. The presence of health related possible selves was moderately related to fewer depressive symptoms when accounting for one's age, gender, and perceived health status. In addition, the absence of health related possible selves was associated with feeling more worthless and the absence of family related possible selves was associated with feeling helpless and feeling like life was empty. The self-regulatory processes associated with possible selves (e.g., self-efficacy, outcome expectancy) were also related to depressive symptoms. For example, older adults who felt more efficacious in achieving their health and family related hoped-for selves and spent more time thinking about their hoped-for selves reported fewer depressive symptoms. The self-regulation of feared selves was not as significantly associated with depressive symptoms as the self-regulation of hoped-for selves. Finally, teleonomjc relevance was not significantly related to depressive symptoms in this study, but was associated with other goal constructs, such as the manageability and meaningfulness of personal projects, and the number of possible selves. Implications of the study and future research directions are discussed.
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