Unforgiveness, Depression, and Health in Later Life: The Protective Factor of Forgivingness

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Objectives: Feeling unforgiven by others has been linked to poor health outcomes. The current study examined whether feeling unforgiven by others is associated with depression and self-rated health among older adults in the United States. The potential moderating roles of forgiving others and self-forgiveness in the association between unforgiveness and both depression and self-rated health was also assessed along with gender differences. Method: Data were drawn from a sample of 1009 adults in Wave 2 of the Religion, Aging, and Health Survey, a national sample of adults aged over 67. Depression was measured using the eight item short form from the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale. Self-rated health was assessed with a one-item indicator. Results: Analyses indicated that higher levels of self-forgiveness ameliorated the relationship between unforgiveness by others and depression for men and women and higher levels of forgiving others attenuated the association between unforgiveness by others and depression for women. Self-forgiveness was protective of depression for women who reported unforgiveness by others and low levels of forgiving others. Regardless of levels of self-forgiveness, men who were most likely to forgive others experienced a significant association between unforgiveness by others and depression. Neither forgiving others nor the self were significant moderators in the association between unforgiveness and self-rated health. Conclusion: Forgiving others and the self may be protective of well-being when women feel unforgiven by others. These findings have implications for forgiveness intervention programs and contribute to literature pertaining to forgiveness and health in later life.



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