Thought suppression is associated with psychological distress in homebound older adults

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Engaging in thought suppression as a coping mechanism has been associated with higher rates of anxiety and depressive disorders in younger adults. Homebound older adults are a population of elders experiencing poor health and high levels of depression and anxiety. It is unclear the extent to which psychological factors, such as thought suppression, are associated with distress, given that their health and disability status may be more salient. The aim of this study was to investigate thought suppression in relation to anxiety and depressive symptoms in homebound older adults.


Participants (N = 142) were clients of home-based case management services delivered by aging service agencies in Florida. Participants were administered a research interview that included the White Bear Suppression Inventory, Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Diagnosis (SCID), Brief Symptom Inventory-18 (BSI-18), and Modified Mini-Mental Status Examination (3MS). Case managers provided standard assessments containing functional and health status of the participant.


After controlling for physical health and cognitive functioning, thought suppression was significantly associated with higher likelihood of clinically significant somatic, depressive, and anxiety symptoms on the BSI-18. Thought suppression was also associated with meeting criteria for a SCID depressive or adjustment disorder. Engaging in thought suppression was associated with worse mental health in this sample of homebound older adults even after taking into account physical health, disability, and cognitive functioning.


These findings suggest the need to develop and test interventions that may address thought suppression as a coping mechanism. Depression and Anxiety 0:1–7, 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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