Skip to main content Accessibility help

Worry and Depression in the Old and Young: Differences and Mediating Factors

  • Lucy Armstrong (a1), Viviana M. Wuthrich (a2), Ashleigh Knight (a2) and Richard Joiner (a1)


Objective: This study examined whether differences in habitual negative self-thinking and coping strategies might contribute to the age differences in worry and depression. Method: 60 undergraduate students (age range: 18–24 years, M = 19.10, SD = 1.3) and 45 community-dwelling older adults (age range: 60–89 years, M = 73.5, SD = 7.5) participated. Participants completed self-report measures of worry, depression, negative self-thinking, and coping styles. Results: We replicated previous findings that older adults were less worried and less depressed than younger adults. Older adults also reported engaging in less habitual negative thinking and using more problem solving as a coping strategy than younger adults. Furthermore, negative self-thinking and problem-solving skills were found to partially mediate age differences in worry and fully mediate depression scores. Conclusions: These results suggest that habitual negative thinking and problem-solving skills play a role in explaining the lower rates of worry and depression in older populations.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Viviana M. Wuthrich, Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 2109. Email:


Hide All
Allemand, M., Zimprich, D., & Hendriks, A.A.J. (2008). Age differences in five personality domains across the life span. Developmental Psychology, 44, 758770. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.44.3. 758
Amirkhan, J.H. (1990). A factor analytically derived measure of coping: The Coping Strategy Indicator. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59 (5), 10661074. doi:
Beck, A.T. (1967). Depression: Causes and treatment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Behar, E., Alcaine, O., Zuellig, A.R., & Borkovec, T.D. (2003). Screening for generalized anxiety disorder using the Penn State Worry Questionnaire: A receiver operating characteristics analysis. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 34, 2543.
Beekman, A.T.F., Bremmer, M.A., Deeg, D.J.H., Van Balkom, A.J.L.M., Smit, J.H., De Beurs, E., Van Dyck, R., & Van Tilburg, W. (1998). Anxiety disorders in later life: A report from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 13, 717726.
Bentler, P.M. (1990). Comparative fit indicies in structural models. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 238246.
Billings, A.G., & Moos, R.H. (1984). Coping, stress, and social resources among adult with unipolar depression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46 (4), 877891. doi:
Dozeman, E., van Schaik, D.J.F., van Marwijk, H.W.J., Stek, M.L., van der Horst, H.E., & Beekman, A.T.F. (2011). The Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) is an adequate screening instrument for depressive and anxiety disorders in a very old population living in residential homes. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26, 239246.
Evans, J., Heron, J., Lewis, G., Araya, R., & Wolke, D. (2005). Negative self-schemas and the onset of depression in women: Longitudinal study. British Journal of Psychiatry, 186, 302307. doi:
Friedman, H.S., & Silver, R.C. (2007). Foundations of health psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Gooding, P.A., Hurst, A., Johnson, J., & Tarrier, N. (2012). Psychological resilience in young and older adults. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 27 (3), 262270. doi:
Hunt, S., Wisocki, P., & Yanko, J. (2003). Worry and use of coping strategies among older and younger adults. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 17, 547560. doi:
IBM (2010). IBM SPSS AMOS Statistics for Windows, Version 19.0. Armonk, NY: Author.
Jorm, A.F., Windsor, T.D., Dear, K.B., Anstey, K.J., Christensen, J., & Rodgers, B. (2005). Age group differences in psychological distress: The role of psychosocial risk factors that vary with age. Psychological Medicine, 35 (9), 12531263. doi:
Kessler, R.C., Chiu, W.T., Demier, O., & Walters, E.E. (2005). Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12 month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 62 (6), 617627. doi:
Kopala-Sibley, D.C., Mongrain, M., & Zuroff, D.C. (2013). A lifespan perspective on dependency and self-criticism: Age-related differences from 18 to 59. Journal of Adult Development, 13, 126141. doi:10.1007/s10804-013-9163-9.
Lazarus, R.S. (1993). Coping theory and research: Past, present, and future. Psychosomatic Medicine, 55, 234247.
MacCallum, R.C., Browne, M.W., & Sugawara, H.M. (1996). Power analysis and determination of sample size for covariance structure modeling. Psychological Methods, 1 (2), 130149.
Meeks, S., Woodruff-Borden, J., & Depp, C. (2003). Structural differentiation of self-reported depression and anxiety in late life. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 17 (6), 627646. doi:
Meyer, T.J., Miller, M.L., Metzger, R.L., & Borkovec, T.D. (1990). Development and validiation of the Penn State Worry Questionnaire. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 28, 487495. doi:
Moos, R.H., Brennan, P.L., Schutte, K.K., & Moos, B.S. (2006). Older adults’ coping with negative life events: Common processes of managing health, interpersonal, and financial/work stressors. International Journal of Aging & Human Development, 62 (1), 3959. doi:
Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Wisco, B.E., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). Rethinking rumination. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3 (5), 400424. doi:10.1111/j.1745-6924.2008.00088.x
Radloff, L. (1977). The CES-D Scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement 1, 385401. doi:
Radloff, L., & Locke, B.Z. (2000). Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. In Rush, A.J., First, M.B., & Black, D. (Eds.), Handbook of psychiatric measure (pp. 523526). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Stanley, M.A., Diefenbach, G.J., Hopko, D.R., Novy, D.M., Kunik, M.E., Wilson, N., & Wagener, P. (2003). The nature of generalized anxiety in older primary care patients: Preliminary findings. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 25 (4), 273280.
Stanley, M.A., Novy, D.M., Bourland, S.L., Beck, J.G., & Averill, P.M. (2001). Assessing older adults with generalised anxiety: A replication and extension. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 39, 221235.
Steiger, J.H., & Lind, J.C. (1980, May). Statistically-based tests for the number of common factors. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Psychometric Society, Iowa City, IA.
Stewart-Brown, S., Evans, J., Patterson, J., Petersen, S., Doll, H., Balding, J., & Regis, D. (2008). The health of students in institutions of higher education: An important neglected public health problem? Journal of Public Health Medicine, 22 (4), 492499. doi:10.1093/pubmed/22.4.492
Tucker, L.R., & Lewis, C. (1973). A reliability coefficient for maximum likelihood factor analysis. Psychometrika, 38, 110.
Verplanken, B., Friborg, O., Wang, C.E., Trafimow, D., & Woolf, K. (2007). Mental habits: Metacognitive reflection on negative self-thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92 (3), 526541. doi:
Verplanken, B., & Orbell, S. (2003). Reflections on past behaviour: A self-report index of habit strength. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33, 13131330. doi:
Wells, A. (2005). The metacognitive model of GAD: Assessment of meta-worry and relationship with DSM-IV generalized anxiety disorder. Cognitive Therapy & Research, 29 (1), 107121. doi:
Wuthrich, V.M., Johnco, C., & Knight, A. (2014). Comparison of the Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ) and abbreviated version (PSWQ-A) in a clinical and non-clinical population of older adults. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 28 (7), 633736.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Worry and Depression in the Old and Young: Differences and Mediating Factors

  • Lucy Armstrong (a1), Viviana M. Wuthrich (a2), Ashleigh Knight (a2) and Richard Joiner (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.