The Relation of Ego Integrity and Despair to Personality Traits and Mental Health

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2017 May 1;72(3):400-407. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbv062.


Objectives: Existing studies in the Eriksonian tradition found that ego integrity and despair are important indicators of life-span development. The present study relates ego integrity and despair to contemporary theories of personality and mental health.

Method: A cross-sectional study of Dutch adults aged between 50 and 95 years (N = 218) was carried out, using the Northwestern Ego Integrity Scale, the subscales for neuroticism, extraversion, and openness to experience of the NEO-FFI, the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form, and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale-Short Form.

Results: Extraversion and openness to experience have an indirect relation to ego integrity that is mediated by well-being. Neuroticism was related to despair and explained the relationship of depressive symptoms to despair. Chronological age did not moderate these findings.

Discussion: Ego integrity appears to be related to fluctuating states of mental health, whereas despair is more an expression of a general trait-like disposition of neuroticism. Implications for further research are discussed.

Keywords: Depression—Despair; Ego integrity; Erikson; Mental health; Personality; Well-being..

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Extraversion, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Neuroticism
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Personality / physiology*
  • Self Concept*