This article reports findings from a longitudinal survey of very elderly people living at home in London. The research aimed to identify social, psychological and physical characteristics associated with positive ageing and successful survival in the community in later life and its converse—negative ageing—as well as the associated policy implications. Associations with psychiatric morbidity, measured using the General Health Questionnaire, among sample members without cognitive impairment between the baseline interviews in 1987 and at follow-up, two and a half years later in 1990, are reported. Twenty-five per cent of survivors scored over the threshold of the GHQ in 1987 and 30% scored over the threshold in 1990. Half of those with a score over the threshold in 1990 also scored over the threshold in 1987. Hierarchical regression (using residualized change analysis) was used to estimate the effects of the independent variables on changes in psychiatric morbidity. The most significant predictor of psychiatric morbidity (GHQ score) in 1990 was baseline GHQ score, followed by health and functional status scores. Health and functional status were also the strongest predictors of baseline (1987) GHQ scores. The uniqueness of the study lies in the collection of follow-up data on a sample of very elderly people, given that most surveys are corss-sectional and contain too few people aged 85+ to merit separate analysis. It contributes to the small body of literature on outcome of depression. The lack of consistent associations with recovery from psychiatric morbidity in the literature enhances the importance of studies aiming to identify factors associated with different outcomes.
- old age
- psychiatric morbidity