The relation of ego integrity and despair to personality traits and mental health

Gerben J. Westerhof*, Ernst T. Bohlmeijer, Dan P. McAdams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
160 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-407
Number of pages8
JournalJournals of gerontology. Series B: Psychological sciences & social sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • Depression
  • Despair
  • Ego integrity
  • Erikson
  • Mental health
  • Personality
  • Well-being


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