Document Type


Publication Date

October 2005


Slides from a presentation to the Gerontological Society of America, October 2005.


Anxiety and depression have been well documented as affective consequences of functional impairment. Little research, however, has examined factors that moderate these associations. The present cross-sectional study examined the role of spiritual well-being in buffering the impact of functional difficulty on the anxiety and depressive symptoms of 319 functionally vulnerable community-dwelling elders, aged 70 or older, participating in a 6-month randomized controlled trial designed to enhance function. As demonstrated in recent research on spirituality and health, we expected that spiritual well-being would moderate the association between functional difficulty and anxiety as well as the relationship between functional difficulty and depression. Functional difficulty was significantly associated with anxiety (r = .27, p = .000) and depression (r = .33, p = .000) such that anxiety and depression increased as did functional difficulty. Spiritual well-being was assessed using an 8-item subscale of Lawton et al.'s (2001) Valuation of Life scale (e.g., "Life has meaning for me."). After controlling for demographic and health conditions, results of separate regression analyses indicated that spiritual well-being had a moderating effect on the association between functional difficulty and depression (R 2 = .42, p [interaction] = .041), i.e., elders with greater functional difficulty and greater spiritual well-being experienced less depression. Contrary to expectations, spiritual well-being did not buffer the effect of functional difficulty on anxiety. Spiritual well-being has a differential effect on mental health. It appears to afford protection against the depressive consequences of functional impairment in frail elders but not anxiety. (NIA funded #AG 13687).