This Scientist Development Award (SDA) application outlines a program of research on psychosocial factors in depression among bereaved elders aimed, ultimately, at the development of prophylactic interventions for recently bereaved older persons. The career development plan is designed to provide the candidate with clinical knowledge and experiences which will inform her proposed research on the ways in which late-life affective disorders may be ameliorated by psychosocial factors. Dr. Ellen Frank, Director of the Depression Prevention Program and the Life Events and Difficulties Schedule research team, University of Pittsburgh, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC), will serve as Preceptor. Research is planned to test and compare the ability of three psychosocial factors (social support, social rhythm stability and mastery events) to protect recently widowed elders from the onset of clinical depression. A better understanding of the role of each of these factors has the potential to lead to specific prophylactic interventions with the late- life bereaved. The proposed research is unusual in two primary respects: first, it will examine and compare the effectiveness of novel psychosocial variables in the prevention of post-bereavement depression and second it has the advantage of using behaviorally-based and investigator-determined (as opposed to subjective self-report) social support and life events assessments. By following 100 elderly spouses of terminally ill patients from approximately 4 months pre- until 13 months post-bereavement, this study can control for and prospectively examine factors expected to influence the likelihood of post-bereavement depression. Results from logistic regression and survival analyses will provide answers to the following questions: 1) Does social support significantly reduce the likelihood of depression onset among recently spousally bereaved elders? If so, what aspects of social support (e.g., empathy, trusted advice, homophilous confidants) most influence the likelihood of being depression-free in the first 13 months after the loss of the spouse? 2) Is the stability of widow(er)'s social rhythms associated with the delay or absence of post-loss syndromal depression? 3) Does the experience of mastery events (i.e., events which promote confidence in one's ability to meet environmental challenges) function to protect recently widowed elders from depression onset? 4) Which of the proposed preventive factors is the most effective at preventing post- bereavement depression onset among this at-risk population?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Scientist Development Award (K21)
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Mental Disorders of Aging Review Committee (MDA)
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University of Pittsburgh
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United States
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