The present study examined the longitudinal relationships between subjective age (SA) and future functional status in later life, via depressive symptoms. Additionally, we assessed the role of subjective nearness to death (SNtD) as a potential moderator within these pathways.
Older adults (average age 81.14 at T1) were interviewed once a year for three consecutive years (N=224 at T1, N=178 at T2, and N=164 at T3), Participants reported their SA, SNtD, depressive symptoms, and functional status. Additionally, grip strength was employed as an objective measure of functional status.
Data analysis revealed distinct pathways leading from T1 SA to T3 functional status through T2 depressive symptoms. Moreover, T1 SNtD was found to significantly moderate most of these indirect pathways, so that the mediation model of T1 SA-T2 depressive symptoms-T3 functional status was mostly significant among those who felt closer to death.
The findings contribute to our understanding of the underlying mechanism through which SA predicts long-term functioning sequelae by underscoring the indirect effect of depressive symptoms. They further indicate the importance of gauging the effects of SNtD on these longitudinal relationships. Present results may further contribute to establishing an integrative model for predicting long-term functional outcomes based on older adults’ earlier subjective views of aging.