Forgiveness May Protect Women From Depression

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Forgiveness may be a trait that helps older women avoid symptoms of depression.

Christine Proulx, PhD, University of Missouri College of Human Environmental Sciences, and colleagues analyzed data from the Religion, Aging, and Health Survey, which included more than 1,000 adults aged 67 and older. Question dealt with their health and psychological well-being.

The researchers looked at forgiveness as older people tend to reflect on their lives, especially with relationships and mistakes.

Men and women who feel unforgiven by others are somewhat protected against depression when they are able to forgive themselves, the researchers reported in the journal Aging & Mental Health. However, forgiving oneself did not more significantly reduce levels of depression.

Women who forgave others were less likely to report depressive symptoms, irrespective of whether they felt unforgiven by others. Men, however, reported the highest levels of depression both when they forgave others and felt unforgiven by others.

“Self-forgiveness didn't act as the protector against depression,” Proulx said in a statement. “It's really about whether individuals can forgive other people and their willingness to forgive others.”

Forgiveness May Protect Women From Depression
Women who forgave others were less likely to report depressive symptoms, irrespective of whether they felt unforgiven by others.

Forgiveness is a complex process, one often fraught with difficulty and angst. Now, researchers in the University of Missouri College of Human Environmental Sciences studied how different facets of forgiveness affected aging adults' feelings of depression.

The researchers found older women who forgave others were less likely to report depressive symptoms regardless of whether they felt unforgiven by others. Older men, however, reported the highest levels of depression when they both forgave others and felt unforgiven by others.

The researchers say their results may help counselors of older adults develop gender-appropriate interventions since men and women process forgiveness differently.

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