Depression and Life Satisfaction

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Abstract
The correlation between depression and life satisfaction for older adults was examined using questionnaires. Four hundred and one older adults (age 65 and above) filled out two questionnaires that assessing depression and life satisfaction, as well as two irrelevant questionnaires that were used to prevent from guessing the hypothesis. As hypothesized, significant negative correlation was found between depression and life satisfaction for older adults. However, the strength of the correlation was quite low. This might due to the inadequate use of questionnaires or participants’ characteristics. Keywords: depression, life satisfaction, older adults

Effect of Depression on Life Satisfaction for Elderly Population People who are suffering from depression tend to have a negative view of life. Consequently, they generally have lower level of life satisfaction as well. Previous research has suggested a strong negative correlation between depression and life satisfaction. That is, as one gets more severe in his depression symptoms, his overall life satisfaction will decrease dramatically. For example, in one study conducted by Headey, Kelley and Wearing (1991), the participants completed a series of questionnaires assessing their general life satisfaction, positive affect, anxiety and depression. They found that “one of the well-being (psychological) dimension, life satisfaction, is quite strongly and negatively correlated with a distress (psychological) dimension, depression; life satisfaction and depression are near opposites” (p. 63). This result was not only limited to one study. In the early studies, Frisch, Cornell, and Villanueva (1989) also obtained significant negative correlations between life satisfaction and depression. Furthermore, Frisch et al. explored the underlying process of the relationship between depression and life satisfaction. They suggested that depression was a combination of negative self-evaluation and hopelessness, which in turn were “based on repeated failures to fulfill aspirations and meet personal standards in highly valued areas of life (life dissatisfaction)” (p. 92). Recent research suggested that one of the most susceptible groups to depression was the elderly population. According to Socio-emotional Selective Theory (Carstensen, 1992), as individuals age, they desire less social stimulation and novelty, and tend to select close, reliable relationships to meet their emotional needs. However, since access to close relationships was not always readily available for elderly people, loneliness might be a result. Consequently, there was a potential risk of developing depression. Additional research supported this theory. In his study of elderly and depression, Alexopoulos (2005) argued “psychosocial adversity, including economic impoverishment, isolation, caregiving, and relocation, tended to contribute in psychological changes, thereby further increasing susceptibility to depression or triggering depression in already vulnerable elderly individuals” (p. 1961). Both arguments were plausible in explaining the reason why older adults were the easy target of depression, and they also led us to a question – was the correlation between depression and life satisfaction for elderly population just as strong and negative as the general population? We have to recognize that the elderly population is somewhat different from the general population. Most people who comprise this group have accomplished their careers and start enjoying the relaxing later years of their lives. After all, it is time to taste the fruit of their labor. Therefore overall, elderly individuals should have more sense of achievement and therefore a higher level of life satisfaction than general population. However, as discussed before, the elderly group is also more likely to be vulnerable to depression. The deterioration in health, loss of established...
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