Complex interplay between health and successful aging: role of perceived stress, resilience, and social support

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2015 Jun;23(6):622-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2014.08.004. Epub 2014 Aug 15.


Psychological and psychosocial resources, including resilience and social support, have traditionally been studied in the context of the stress paradigm and, more recently, in the context of successful aging. This study used moderated mediation analyses to examine the role of perceived stress in the relationships between physical and mental health functioning and self-rated successful aging (SRSA) and whether differences between people in level of resilience and social support changes the role of perceived stress in these relationships. A cross-sectional study of 1,006 older adults (mean age: 77 years) completed scales addressing SRSA, physical and mental health functioning, perceived stress, resilience, and social support. Results indicated that the strength of relationships between both physical and mental health functioning and SRSA were reduced after accounting for variation in level of perceived stress. The role of perceived stress in the association between mental health functioning and SRSA was found to be stronger among participants with the highest levels of resilience, and the influence of perceived stress on the degree of relationship between physical health functioning and SRSA was stronger among those with greatest social support. These findings suggest that interventions to reduce perceived stress may help break the link between disability and poor well-being in older adults. The findings further suggest that the impact of such interventions might differ depending on psychological resources (i.e., resilience) for mental health disabilities and external resources (i.e., social support) for those with physical health problems. The complex interplay of these factors should be taken into account in clinical settings.

Keywords: Aging; disability; emotional health; perceived stress; psychosocial functioning; resilience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*