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Mixed-methods quantitative–qualitative study of 29 nonagenarians and centenarians in rural Southern Italy: focus on positive psychological traits

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 December 2017

Anna Scelzo
Affiliation:
Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, ASL4, Chiavarese, Italy
Salvatore Di Somma
Affiliation:
Department of Medical-Surgery Sciences and Translational Medicine, University of Rome La Sapienza, Rome, Italy
Paola Antonini
Affiliation:
3B Biotech Research, Lugano, Switzerland
Lori P. Montross
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, University of CaliforniaSan Diego, USA Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of CaliforniaSan Diego, USA
Nicholas Schork
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, University of CaliforniaSan Diego, USA Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of CaliforniaSan Diego, USA Translational Genomics Research Institute, Phoenix, Arizona, USA J.Craig Venter Institute, La Jolla, California, USA
David Brenner
Affiliation:
School of Medicine, University of CaliforniaSan Diego, USA
Dilip V. Jeste*
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, University of CaliforniaSan Diego, USA Department of Neurosciences, University of CaliforniaSan Diego, USA Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, University of CaliforniaSan Diego, USA
*
Correspondence should be addressed to: Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Senior Associate Dean for Healthy Aging and Senior Care, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences, Estelle and Edgar Levi Chair in Aging, Director, Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging, University of CaliforniaSan Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive #0664 La Jolla, CA 92023-0664, USA. Phone: +(858) 534-4020; Fax: (858) 534–5475. Email: djeste@ucsd.edu.

Abstract

Objective:

This was a study of positive psychological traits in a group of rural Italians aged 90 to 101 years, and their children or other family members.

Design:

Mixed-methods quantitative (standardized rating scales) and qualitative (semi-structured interviews) study.

Setting:

Study participants’ homes in nine villages in the Cilento region of southern Italy.

Participants:

Twenty-nine nonagenarians and centenarians and 51 family members aged 51–75 years, selected by their general practitioners as a part of a larger study called CIAO (Cilento Initiative on Aging Outcomes).

Methods:

We used published rating scales of mental and physical well-being, resilience, optimism, anxiety, depression, and perceived stress. Qualitative interviews gathered personal narratives of the oldest-old individuals, including migrations, traumatic events, and beliefs. Family members described their impressions about the personality traits of their older relative.

Results:

Participants age ≥90 years had worse physical health but better mental well-being than their younger family members. Mental well-being correlated negatively with levels of depression and anxiety in both the groups. The main themes that emerged from qualitative interviews included positivity (resilience and optimism), working hard, and bond with family and religion, as described in previously published studies of the oldest old, but also a need for control and love of the land, which appeared to be unique features of this rural population.

Conclusions:

Exceptional longevity was characterized by a balance between acceptance of and grit to overcome adversities along with a positive attitude and close ties to family, religion, and land, providing purpose in life.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © International Psychogeriatric Association 2017 

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