The Psychology of Bitterness: 10 Essential Lessons

The researcher behind a new study on aging and depression shares tips on how not to turn into a grumpy old man (or woman)

main 1243827407_1024x768_up-film-2009-carl-fredricksen.jpg

Contrary to countless pop culture depictions of cranky old men and bitter spinsters, depression is not a normal part of aging. Several reports have shown that the true culprit behind the pervasiveness of this disorder among people age 65 and older is disability. The National Institute of Mental Health, for instance, estimates that the rate of depression among the elderly ranges from less than 1 percent to about 5 percent, but rises to around 12 percent among those who require health care at home or in a hospital.

New research offers a way for this at-risk group to ward off depression: "goal disengagement." Concordia University psychologists Erin Dunne and Carsten Wrosch collaborated with University of British Columbia's Gregory Miller for a study to be published in the journal Health Psychology. Their conclusion in Dunne's words: "The ability of older adults with functional limitations to withdraw effort and commitment from goals that are no longer attainable can help them avoid increases in depressive symptoms over time."

In the gallery below, Wrosch elaborates on the importance of learning to let go as one ages, and shares other lessons on bitterness from his work with Jesse Renaud in the new book Embitterment.



Image: Disney/Pixar

Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in Health

Just In