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Aging Ment Health. 2017 Nov 7:1-9. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2017.1396581. [Epub ahead of print]

Functions of reminiscence in later life: Predicting change in the physical and mental health of older adults over time.

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a IRMACS Centre , Simon Fraser University , Burnaby (BC) , Canada.
b School of Psychology , University of Ottawa , Ottawa (ON) , Canada.
c Gerontology Research Centre , Simon Fraser University , Vancouver (BC) , Canada.
d Department of Public Health and Center for Multidisciplinary Research On Aging , Ben-Gurion University of the Negev , Be'er Sheva Israel.



Research has repeatedly shown that reminiscence affects the mental health and well-being of older adults contemporaneously and over time. Cross-sectional research also points to a link between reminiscence and physical health. The direction of this relationship is unclear, however. Does physical health affect how and why older adults think of themselves in the past? Or conversely, do various functions of reminiscence affect both mental and physical health now, and in future?


Online responses were collected from a primarily Canadian sample of 411 older adults at three time points, separated by eight months on average. Participants responded to the Reminiscence Functions Scale at baseline and reported their health conditions, perceived state of health, life satisfaction, and psychological distress at subsequent points of measurement. A structural equation model was computed to identify direct and indirect associations between reminiscence functions and health over time.


Self-negative reminiscence functions at baseline (T1) predicted physical health 8 months later (T2), whereas self-positive reminiscence functions at T1 predicted both physical health and psychological distress at T2. The associations among self-positive functions and subsequent physical and mental health were maintained over time. Additionally, longitudinal crossover was observed in which psychological distress at T2 predicted physical health at T3, controlling for physical and mental health at T2.


Findings confirm longitudinal associations among reminiscence functions and subsequent indicators of health. For older adults, this extends to both physical and mental health. Future research should examine the physiological mechanisms by which autobiographical memory affects health over time.


Anxiety; depressive symptoms; life satisfaction; physical health; psychological distress; reminiscence functions; structural equation modeling

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