Classic developmental theory suggests that aging is associated with using compensatory strategies to prolong independence. While compensatory strategies are typically considered positive adaptations, they also signify an early phase in the disablement process - commonly known as pre-clinical disability. To build a better understanding of psychological constructs related to these early signs of disability, we examined the contribution of SE and state anxiety on using compensatory strategies among pre-clinically disabled older adults. Compensatory strategies were observed during performance of daily activities in 257 pre-clinically disabled older adults (67.6 ± 7.04), and SE and state anxiety were evaluated prior to performing each task. In univariate models, lower SE and higher anxiety were associated with more compensation (Spearman correlations: 0.15-0.48, p<0.05). Multivariate logistic regression indicated that low SE [Odds Ratio (OR): 1.70; 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 1.40-2.08) and high anxiety (OR: 1.34; 95% CI: 1.10-1.63) were positively associated with using ≥6 compensatory strategies - a level signifying substantial compensation. When considered jointly with SE, the association with anxiety was reversed - higher anxiety demonstrated a lower likelihood of using compensation (OR: 0.70-0.73; 95% CI: 0.50-0.99). The addition of SE might remove the self-defeating cognitions characterizing anxiety allowing the remaining arousal component to appear beneficial. In conclusion, lower SE and higher anxiety are associated with using compensation to complete daily tasks among pre-clinically disabled older adults. Such psychological constructs may contribute to the use of compensatory strategies and represent future intervention targets to help reduce early signs of disability.
Torrance J. Higgins, C. Janelle, Kelly M. Naugle
Archives of gerontology and geriatrics