Economic stress and uncertainty is argued to increase older adults' vulnerability to physical health decline and mental distress. Nevertheless, there is a paucity of research that examines the relationship between a large historical economic event, such as the recent global financial crisis (GFC), and health outcomes for older adults. This study provides a unique opportunity to compare self-reported health status and psychological functioning (number of depression and anxiety symptoms) in 1973 older Australian adults (mean age of 66.58 years (SD = 1.5)) prior to the GFC (2005-2006), with their status four years later during the GFC period (2009-2010). Latent difference score models revealed a significant difference in depression and anxiety symptoms over the two measurement occasions, indicating poorer psychological functioning for those who reported an impact as a result of the economic slowdown. These effects were not explained by demographic or socio-economic factors. Interaction effects showed that those participants who were surveyed within the acute salience period of the GFC (April to September 2009) were significantly less likely to report poorer psychological health over time compared to those who were surveyed after September 2009. This interesting timing effect is discussed in terms of potential time-lags in the negative effects of economic stress on health outcomes, as well as the possible protective effects of social norms that may be created by a large scale economic crisis.
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