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

David B. King, Philippe Cappeliez, Sarah L. Canham, Norm O'Rourke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: 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? Methods: 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. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)246-254
Number of pages9
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2019


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

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Gerontology
  • Phychiatric Mental Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Functions of reminiscence in later life: Predicting change in the physical and mental health of older adults over time'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this