Association between happiness and psychopathology in an elderly regional rural population in Crete
Christodoulou, Nikos G.
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Research has shown that socio-demographic profile and psychopathology symptoms are related to levels of happiness in old age. The aims of this cross-sectional study were: 1) to investigate the effect of recent stressful life events and socio-demographic factors on psychopathological symptoms in elderly residents in mountain regions of Crete, Greece and 2) to explore the mechanism which underlies the relationship between socio-demographic factors and psychopathological symptoms, with levels of happiness in old age. To this end, we used the nine psychopathology dimensions of symptoms as defined in the Symptom Checklist-90-R (SCL-90), while the Holmes and Rahe stress inventory was administered to quantify the stressful life events. A sample of 205 elderly men and women (age=77.1+/-6.7 years) living in 10 remote rural and isolated villages participated in this study. Data was collected through questionnaires completed upon individual meetings with each participant, with the interviewer's assistance. Each questionnaire included the two aforesaid scales alongside questions on individual socio-demographic characteristics. Analysis of variance was applied to detect socio-demographic factors that have a significant effect on specific psychopathological symptoms. Then, path analysis was applied to quantify the direct and indirect effect of the selected socio-demographic factors on happiness levels. Stressful life events were found to have no statistically significant effect on the presence of specific symptoms (somatization, psychoticism, anxiety) in elderly adults. Furthermore, certain socio-demographic factors (marital status, smoking, family income and social activity) were found to influence happiness, which varied according to the level of psycho-emotional tension. The results suggest that somatization, psychoticism, and phobic anxiety symptoms are psychic reactions independent of recent stressful life events. Our study,despite its regional character, may contribute in the development of appropriate clinical assessment tools and interventions, helping primary care practitioners to approach elderly people living in remote villages in a more appropriate and holistic manner, improving thereby the effectiveness of their interventions.