Reminiscence and adaptation to critical life events in older adults with mild to moderate depressive symptoms

Jojanneke Korte*, Ernst T. Bohlmeijer, Gerben J. Westerhof, Anne M. Pot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)
108 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: The role of reminiscence as a way of adapting to critical life events and chronic medical conditions was investigated in older adults with mild to moderate depressive symptoms. Reminiscence is the (non)volitional act or process of recollecting memories of one's self in the past. Method: 171 Dutch older adults with a mean age of 64 years (SD = 7.4) participated in this study. All of them had mild to moderate depressive symptoms. Participants completed measures on critical life events, chronic medical conditions, depressive symptoms, symptoms of anxiety and satisfaction with life. The reminiscence functions included were: identity, problem solving, bitterness revival and boredom reduction. Results: Critical life events were positively correlated with identity and problem solving. Bitterness revival and boredom reduction were both positively correlated with depressive and anxiety symptoms, and negatively to satisfaction with life. Problem solving had a negative relation with anxiety symptoms. When all the reminiscence functions were included, problem solving was uniquely associated with symptoms of anxiety, and bitterness revival was uniquely associated with depressive symptoms and satisfaction with life. Interestingly, problem solving mediated the relation of critical life events with anxiety. Discussion: This study corroborates the theory that reminiscence plays a role in coping with critical life events, and thereby maintaining mental health. Furthermore, it is recommended that therapists focus on techniques which reduce bitterness revival in people with depressive symptoms, and focus on problem-solving reminiscences among people with anxiety symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)638-646
Number of pages9
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number5
Early online date17 Jun 2011
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


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