The overall purpose of this study is to expand the health behavior-health status model to include depressive symptoms and related psychosocial factors as components, thus capturing a more comprehensive conceptualization of the role behavioral factors play in the health of older adults. An understanding of these interactive and dynamic relationships between psychosocial resources, depression, and health behavior may lay the foundation for developing more effective public health interventions. The specific goals of this research are (1) to assess the effects of depression and psychological distress on health behaviors among older adults. (2) To examine the role of depression and depressive symptoms (including their psychosocial antecedents) among older men and women who engage in behaviors which are harmful to their health, and (3) to initiate a longitudinal study to identify and assess the directionality of the causal relationships between general risk factors (including deficits in psychological and social resources and life event-related stress), depression, and health behaviors. The proposed study will utilize cross-sectional and panel data derived from the Canadian National Population Health Survey (NPHS). The NPHS data are especially attractive for the analyses of depression and health in late life. The survey contains data on a myriad of factors for analytic studies that will assist in understanding the determinants of physical and mental well being. Also, with regard to forecasting the impact on U.S. health policy formulation and analysis, the NPHS has several attractive features. First, the sample is representative of the entire population [From which it is drawn. Studies also suggest that health behaviors among older adults in Canada can be generalized to the U.S.] Second, the survey is longitudinal. Third, the interview data (including standardized psychiatric instruments) will be linked in the near future with health care utilization information obtained from automated record keeping systems. Fourth, the survey information is recent. Fifth, older adults are well represented. Because recent epidemiologic studies suggest that health-promoting habits appear to augment biologic vitality/host resistance in late adulthood, it is critical to understand the psychosocial factors that affect health behaviors. Although numerous researchers have examined the psychosocial factors associated with late life depression, little evidence has accrued regarding how depressive symptoms and their psychosocial antecedents affect health behavior which in turn might exert a negative impact on longevity and disability in older populations.
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