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Older adults' spirituality and life satisfaction: a longitudinal test of social support and sense of coherence as mediating mechanisms

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 July 2012

School of Primary Health Care, Monash University, Notting Hill, Victoria, Australia.
School of Primary Health Care, Monash University, Notting Hill, Victoria, Australia.
Lincoln Centre for Research on Ageing, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.
School of Primary Health Care, Monash University, Notting Hill, Victoria, Australia.
Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, Lidcombe, NSW, Australia.
Address for correspondence: Sean Cowlishaw, School of Primary Health Care, Monash University, Notting Hill, 3168, Victoria, Australia. E-mail:


Spirituality is proposed to be a component of successful ageing and has been shown to predict wellbeing in old age. There has been conceptual discussion of possible mechanisms that link spirituality with positive psychological functioning in older adults, but few empirical examinations of these linking mechanisms over time. The current study examined the role of Antonovsky's Sense of Coherence (SOC) and social support in mediating the effects of spirituality on life satisfaction in older participants over a four-year period. The study used a cross-lagged panel analysis to evaluate longitudinal mediation within a path analysis framework. Results showed that the meaningfulness dimension of SOC mediated the influence of spirituality on life satisfaction over time, suggesting that spirituality may influence older adults' experience and perception of life events, leading to a more positive appraisal of these events as meaningful. Social support was not found to mediate the pathway between spirituality and life satisfaction. This study may be the first to examine the link between spirituality, sense of coherence, social support and wellbeing, as measured by life satisfaction, using longitudinal data from a community sample of older adults. The study provides evidence for the positive role of spirituality in the lives of older people. This is an area that requires further examination in models of successful ageing.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012 

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