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Aging Ment Health. 2019 Jan;23(1):100-106. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2017.1396576. Epub 2017 Nov 8.

The role of meaning in life in community-dwelling older adults with depression and relationship to other risk factors.

Author information

a Department of Medical Psychology , University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf , Hamburg , Germany.
b Department of Psychosocial Prevention , University of Heidelberg , Heidelberg , Germany.
c School of Psychology , University Complutense of Madrid , Madrid , Spain.
d Nant Foundation , East Vaud Psychiatric Institute , Corsier-sur-Vevey , Switzerland.
e Department of Biomedical and Specialty Surgical Sciences , Institute of Psychiatry , University of Ferrara , Ferrara , Italy.
f Institute of Medical Biometry and Epidemiology , University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf , Hamburg , Germany.
g Division of Institutional Measures, Medical Direction , University Hospitals of Geneva , Puplinge , Switzerland.
h Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy , Technische Universität Dresden , Dresden , Germany.
i Institute of Psychology , Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt , Klagenfurt , Austria.
j Department of Psychology , University Witten/Herdecke , Witten , Germany.



The aims of this study were to examine the association of Meaning in Life (MiL) with sociodemographic and physical factors, and its association with depression in older people.


A cross-sectional survey with a sample of N = 2104 older adults from communities of four European countries was conducted, using an age-appropriate interview for the diagnosis of depression and the Schedule for Meaning in Life Evaluation (SMiLE) questionnaire to assess MiL.


Overall, MiL was particularly low in old male participants, in older people from Ferrara (Italy), those with a lower religious affiliation, fewer social contacts, and poorer physical health. Furthermore, younger old age (65-69 compared to 80-84 year olds), female gender, being married, living in Geneva and poorer physical health were significantly associated with a higher risk for depression. In addition, lower MiL significantly increased the likelihood to suffer from depression in older people. An interaction effect of study center and MiL also emerged: with decreasing MiL the risk for depression significantly increases in Hamburg compared to the other study centers.


This study underlines the association of MiL and depression in old age. Integration of meaning-specific aspects in treatment for older adults with depression may be promising.


Depression; age-appropriate diagnostic assessment; elderly; meaning

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