Live well and die with inner peace: The importance of retrospective need-based experiences, ego integrity and despair for late adults’ death attitudes
Journal article, Peer reviewed
MetadataShow full item record
Original versionArchives of gerontology and geriatrics (Print). 2020, 91 . 10.1016/j.archger.2020.104184
Given that prior research has provided evidence for the role of late adults’ attitudes towards death in their mental health, we sought to understand its underlying sources. Guided by Self-Determination Theory and Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, two cross-sectional studies examined whether older individuals’ psychological need-based experiences, as accumulated during life, relate to their death attitudes and whether their experienced ego integrity and despair play an intervening role in these associations. Whereas Study 1 (N = 394 late adults; Mage = 75.14; SD = 6.52; 62.9 % female) involved an assessment of need satisfaction only, in Study 2 (N = 126 late adults; Mage = 78.09; SD = 7.17; 61.9 % female) both need satisfaction and need frustration were assessed. Structural equation modeling showed that, across studies, experienced need satisfaction related positively to ego integrity and negatively to despair. Need frustration was related to despair only. In turn, ego integrity related positively to death acceptance and negatively to death anxiety, while despair related positively to death anxiety. Finally, the contribution of need satisfaction to death attitudes was mostly mediated by individuals’ ego integrity. Theoretical and practical implications of these results are discussed.