Reciprocal Associations between Depressive Symptoms, Life Satisfaction, and Eudaimonic Well-Being in Older Adults over a 16-Year Period

The dual-continua model of mental health distinguishes between mental illness (presence of mental disorders, such as depression) and mental well-being (presence of positive traits and abilities). This model also distinguishes between hedonic well-being (e.g., affect balance and life satisfaction) and eudaimonic well-being (i.e., optimal psychological and social functioning, as indicated for example by having a purpose in life). We examined the relationships between depressive symptoms (a common indicator of mental illness), life satisfaction, and eudaimonic well-being. The study used a sample of 17,056 participants from England whose data were collected at eight intervals of approximately two years over a 16-year period, from 2004 to 2019. The mean age of the sample in the first wave was 58.843 years, with a standard deviation of 12.617 years (women = 55.2%). We disentangled within- and between-person sources of variance to examine whether increases or decreases in one variable preceded changes in the other variables at the next time point. We found positive reciprocal relationships between life satisfaction and eudaimonic well-being and negative reciprocal relationships between the two well-being dimensions and depressive symptoms. These results suggest that within-person increases in well-being are followed by future decreases in depressive symptoms, and within-person increases in depressive symptoms are followed by future decreases in well-being. Therefore, low levels of mental well-being in older adults may be considered a risk factor for depression, and well-being interventions (such as those focused on meaning-making) may serve as a protective factor against depression in older adults ​
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