Ageist attitudes and psychological distress in older adults: The moderating role of reflective functioning

Yoav S. Bergman, Gali H. Weissberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ageist attitudes have been associated with various aspects of psychological functioning in older adults. According to Terror Management Theory, older adults may be seen as a reminder of human demise and death, and research has demonstrated links between ageist attitudes and compromised abilities to seek and maintain close personal relationships, which ward off awareness of one's mortality. Accordingly, the current work examined whether reflective functioning, or the ability to comprehend one's own and others' mental states, mitigates the negative psychological manifestations of ageist attitudes in older adults. Data was collected from 686 participants aged 60–94 (Mage = 72.64, SD = 6.28), who completed scales assessing ageist attitudes, reflective functioning, and psychological distress, as well as relevant socio-demographic information. Results indicated that ageist attitudes were linked with low levels of reflective functioning and enhanced psychological distress. Moreover, reflective functioning moderated the ageist attitudes-distress link, which was not significant in individuals reporting high levels of reflective functioning. This study provides insight into how the ability to comprehend others' mental states mitigates the adverse psychological effects of ageist attitudes and highlights the importance of examining relationship-enhancing personal factors within the context of negative ageing perceptions and psychological distress.

Original languageEnglish
JournalStress and Health
Early online date25 Apr 2024
StateE-pub ahead of print - 25 Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • ageist attitudes
  • older adults
  • psychological distress
  • reflective functioning


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