Optimism-pessimism, life events, and depressive symptomotology among younger and older adults

Anne Prendergast Grimes, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to examine how optimism-pessimism and life events combine to produce depressive symptomotology, and how this effect differs for older and younger adults. It was hypothesized, based largely on the only existing study examining these constructs in older adults, that the optimism which is adaptive for younger adults in the face of stress would be maladaptive for older adults facing stress. Measures of optimism-pessimism, negative life events, and depressive symptomotology were administered to a sample of younger adults (N = 110) and a sample of older adults (N = 1071). Results showed that, contrary to hypotheses, optimism was negatively associated with depression and pessimism was positively associated with depression for both older and younger adults who were facing stress. Therefore, optimism is adaptive for both older and younger adults who are facing stressful life events. One difference found between older and younger adult samples was that there was a significant interaction between optimism and stress, and between pessimism and stress for the older adults. This interaction was not found for the younger adults, indicating that optimism plays a part in the relationship between stress and depression for older adults, but not for younger adults.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Psychotherapy|Gerontology

Recommended Citation

Grimes, Anne Prendergast, "Optimism-pessimism, life events, and depressive symptomotology among younger and older adults" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3017561.