The stories we live by: the adaptive role of reminiscence in later life

Jojannneke Korte

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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This thesis has demonstrated how reminiscence can have an adaptive value for mental health in later life. The first aim of this thesis was to study the relationship between reminiscence and mental health. In a sample of older adults with mild to moderate depressive symptomatology, it has been shown that people reminisce more often for positive reminiscence when confronted with critical life events, that problem-solving reminiscence mediates the relation between critical life events and anxiety, and that mental resources (i.e., meaning in life and mastery) mediate the relation of negative reminiscence with distress. These results support the premise that it is useful to focus not only on how reminiscence is related to mental health, but also on the contextual factors of reminiscence. Therefore, we advise including both types of factors to examine the role of reminiscence in adaptation or evaluating life-review based interventions. The second aim of this thesis was to evaluate the (cost) effectiveness of an early intervention that integrates life-review and narrative therapy (“The stories we live by”) for older adults with mild to moderate depressive symptomatology. It has been demonstrated this method is effective as an early intervention for depressed older adults, that life-review is effective under ecologically valid conditions and that better outcomes are achieved at higher costs. The third aim of this thesis was to study possible mechanisms of life-review. Results suggest that life-review is effective for a broad cross-section of older adults. It seems that participants with higher levels of depressive symptoms, neuroticism and bitterness revival are also capable of developing alternative stories on their lives that are more positive, meaningful and empowering. Life-review appears to achieve its effectiveness in the following ways: by discouraging bitterness revival and boredom reduction reminiscence, by strengthening mastery and positive thoughts, and by stimulating group processes as learning to disclose oneself, finding recognition, learning from others and realizing that others have problems too. Counsellors who facilitate life-review interventions should be very familiar with the mediating processes that influence its effects and it is recommended that they are specifically trained to promote these processes.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Bohlmeijer, Ernst T., Supervisor
  • Westerhof, Gerben J., Co-Supervisor
  • Smit, Filip, Co-Supervisor, External person
Award date29 Nov 2012
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs9789036534574
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2012


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