Becca R. Levy

Becca R. Levy
Yale University | YU · School of Public Health

Ph.D.

About

118
Publications
75,919
Reads
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10,988
Citations
Citations since 2017
37 Research Items
6364 Citations
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201720182019202020212022202302004006008001,0001,2001,400
201720182019202020212022202302004006008001,0001,2001,400

Publications

Publications (118)
Article
Background and Objectives Interest in reminiscence activities for older adults has grown in recent years, but the benefits of co-reminiscence are not well-known. Drawing from a narrative identity framework, this study examined older adult spouses’ co-reminiscence about their first encounters. We hypothesized that perceived closeness and support inc...
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Objectives: During the COVID-19 pandemic, stigmatization of older persons increased in traditional and social media. It was unknown whether this negative messaging could be detrimental to the mental health of older individuals, and whether the relatively uncommon positive messaging about older individuals could benefit their mental health. Method:...
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Violence directed against older persons is recognized as a global health problem. However, structural drivers for violence remain under-studied. This country-level ecological study aimed to examine a previously unexplored link between structural ageism and violence against older persons. Following extensive structural stigma literature, structural...
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It has been assumed that the pandemic has brought with it a surge in elder abuse due to heightened health and interpersonal stressors. However, empirical evidence is lacking. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of, and risk and resilience factors of elder abuse during the pandemic. In a web-based survey of a socio-demographically diverse sa...
Article
Full-text available
During the COVID-19 pandemic, stigmatization of older persons has increased in traditional and social media. It was unknown whether this negative messaging could be detrimental to the mental health of older individuals, and whether the relatively uncommon positive messaging about older individuals could benefit their mental health. To address these...
Article
Full-text available
Elder abuse affects one in six older persons globally. Three limitations converge to impede progress in prevention: most research is victim- rather than perpetrator-based; the reliance on explicit, self-reported factors; and failure to account for psychological factors that motivate abuse in the first place. The current study will be the first to a...
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Considering that elder abuse affects one in six older persons worldwide, a need exists to identify factors that predict this abuse. Previous studies have found that ageism operates at both structural (i.e., societal-level stigmatizing views toward older persons) and individual levels (i.e., negative age beliefs) to affect health. However, it was no...
Article
Objective: Theories suggest that laughter decreases negative affect and enhances social bonds; however, no studies have examined the benefits of laughter on stress biomarkers in dyads. This study examined the hypotheses that individual and shared laughter would be associated with lower blood pressure reactivity and decreased self-reported and perc...
Article
Objectives During the COVID-19 pandemic, stigmatization of older persons has increased in traditional and social media. It was unknown whether this negative messaging could be detrimental to the mental health of older individuals, and whether the relatively uncommon positive messaging about older individuals could benefit their mental health. Meth...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives: During the COVID-19 pandemic, stigmatization of older persons increased in traditional and social media. It was unknown whether this negative messaging could be detrimental to the mental health of older individuals, and whether the relatively uncommon positive messaging about older individuals could benefit their mental health. Method:...
Article
Full-text available
Objective To determine the association between country-level structural ageism and prevalence of violence against older persons. Design Country-level ecological study. Setting Structural ageism data were drawn from the nationally representative World Values Survey 2010–2014 (WVS), global databases from the WHO, United Nations and the World Bank....
Article
Objectives Before the COVID-19 pandemic, elder abuse affected one in ten American older adults annually. It has been assumed that the pandemic has brought with it a surge in elder abuse due to individuals ordered to stay at home combined with increased interpersonal stressors. However, empirical evidence is lacking. This study aims to estimate the...
Article
Elder abuse impacts one in six older persons globally. Most studies of elder abuse have focused on risk factors rather than protective factors, individual-level factors rather than structural factors, and developed countries rather than developing countries where resources are scarce. The current study addressed these gaps by examining whether neig...
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One of the strongest risk factors for dementia is the ε4 variant of the APOE gene. Yet, many who carry it never develop dementia. The current study examined whether positive age beliefs that are acquired from the culture may reduce the risk of developing dementia among older individuals, including those who are APOE ε4 carriers. The cohort consiste...
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Objectives: Most studies of aging cognition have focused on risk factors for worse performance and on either genetic or environmental factors. In contrast, we examined whether two factors known to individually benefit aging cognition may interact to produce better cognition: environment-based positive age beliefs and the APOE ϵ2 gene. Method: Th...
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We explored psychosocial pathways to longevity, specifically, the association between psychological well-being and mortality in a 20-year prospective cohort study of 7626 participants. As hypothesized, high self-acceptance and interdependence were associated with decreased mortality risk, controlling for other psychological components (purpose, pos...
Article
Objectives To identify the current prevalence, and sociodemographic, military, health, and psychosocial correlates of successful aging in older U.S. veterans. Methods Data were analyzed from the 2019-2020 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, which surveyed a nationally representative sample of 3,001 U.S. veterans aged ≥60 (mean =73)....
Preprint
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Background: Mental health has become one of the fundamental priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Situations like physical distancing as well as being constantly tagged as the most vulnerable group could expose older adults to mental and psychosocial burdens. Nonetheless, there is little clarity about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic or simil...
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Objective Although there is anecdotal evidence of ageism occurring at both the structural level (in which societal institutions reinforce systematic bias against older persons) and individual level (in which older persons take in the negative views of aging of their culture), previous systematic reviews have not examined how both levels simultaneou...
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It is estimated that elder abuse impacts 16% of older persons globally. There is a need to understand factors that protect older persons. In this study, we examined whether neighborhood social cohesion, or the mutual support, trust, and interaction among neighbors, could be such a factor. As it has been found to be protective of child abuse and dom...
Article
Objective: Little is known about the cardiovascular effects of mutual emotional spousal support given for health concerns. We examined the hypotheses that: (a) mutual support (both spouses giving and receiving support) compared to one-sided or no support, would decrease blood pressure and heart rate in both spouses during a recovery period; and (b...
Article
Objective: The aim of this study was to identify how a broad range of sociodemographic, military, health, and psychosocial factors relate to accelerated DNA methylation aging (Δage) in a large, contemporary, nationally representative sample of male U.S. veterans. Methods: Data were analyzed from a sample of U.S. male European-American veterans w...
Article
Rationale: Psychiatric conditions are often falsely considered inherent to aging. We examined whether negative age stereotypes, which older individuals tend to assimilate from the environment across their lifespan, contributed to an increased risk of developing four psychiatric conditions, and, if so, whether this risk was reduced through active c...
Article
This study examined whether stereotypes about an out-group could influence physical health. It had been previously shown that positive stereotypes held by older individuals about their in-group benefited physical health. However, the potential impact on physical health from idealizing their out-group, the young, through positive stereotypes had not...
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Purpose: This study examined whether older age moderates the association between gender-affirming medical treatment and quality of life (QOL) among transgender individuals. Methods: Transgender men and women from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey who had either recently or never undergone medical treatment were included (n = 2420)....
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The obesity epidemic among older adults is expected to continue increasing unless public-health efforts address this age group. Yet, little is known about psychosocial determinants of obesity that relate specifically to older persons. In this study, we investigated for the first time whether self-perceptions of aging (SPA), defined as beliefs about...
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Background and objectives: The persistent status of ageism as one of the least acknowledged forms of prejudice may be due in part to an absence of quantifying its costs in economic terms. In this study, we calculated the costs of ageism on health conditions for all persons aged 60 years or older in the United States during 1 year. Research design...
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Objective: Much of the literature on aging cognitive health has focused on individual determinants, rather than societal ones; in contrast, this study examined whether country-level age status predicts cognitive performance of older individuals over time. Method: Eight countries were examined using a novel combination of country-level age status...
Article
Full-text available
One of the strongest risk factors for dementia is the ε4 variant of the APOE gene. Yet, many who carry it never develop dementia. The current study examined for the first time whether positive age beliefs that are acquired from the culture may reduce the risk of developing dementia among older individuals, including those who are APOE ε4 carriers....
Article
Full-text available
An age-stereotype paradox has developed in the United States due to factors that would suggest age stereotypes should be increasing in positivity over time; whereas, recent evidence shows they are becoming more negative. Reasons for predicting an increase in positivity are presented, followed by reasons that help to explain why the reverse is occur...
Article
This study examined, with a sample of older adult, caregiving couples, whether each spouse’s health was associated with their own and their partner’s relationship satisfaction. Dyads (n = 233; age = 64–99 years) in the Caregiver Health Effects Study, ancillary to the Cardiovascular Health Study, reported relationship satisfaction, depressive sympto...
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Prolonged elevation of cortisol, the primary stress biomarker, is associated with impaired cognitive and physical health. Cortisol tends to increase in later life among most, but not all, older individuals. The current study considered whether this pattern could be explained by more-positive age stereotypes acting as a stress buffer. The 439 partic...
Article
Objectives: Objectives were to: (a) identify the mental health needs of older and younger sexual minority and heterosexual U.S. veterans and (b) examine whether sexual minority status confers vulnerability or resiliency in older adulthood. Support and trauma exposure were examined as potential mechanisms for age by sexual orientation differences....
Article
Although books can expose people to new people and places, whether books also have health benefits beyond other types of reading materials is not known. This study examined whether those who read books have a survival advantage over those who do not read books and over those who read other types of materials, and if so, whether cognition mediates t...
Article
Objectives To determine whether older adult spouses' frailty states and depressive symptoms are interrelated over time. DesignLongitudinal, dyadic path analysis using the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model. SettingData were from baseline (1989-90), Wave 3 (1992-93), and Wave 7 (1996-97), all waves in which frailty and depressive symptoms were meas...
Article
Objective: Previous studies have found that positive self-perceptions of aging (SPA) are associated with longer survival; however, a biological mechanism was unknown. We examined whether C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of cumulative stress-related inflammation, mediates the relationship between SPA and survival. Method: The SPA of participant...
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Studies examining the association between retirement and health have produced mixed results. This may be due to previous studies treating retirement as merely a change in job status rather than a transition associated with stereotypes or societal beliefs (e.g., retirement is a time of mental decline or retirement is a time of growth). To examine wh...
Article
Although negative age stereotypes have been found to predict adverse outcomes among older individuals, it was unknown whether the influence of stereotypes extends to brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease. To consider this possibility, we drew on dementia-free participants, in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, whose age stereoty...
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Objectives: For older adults coping with a spouse's chronic condition, greater marital satisfaction may not be entirely protective for psychological health. We examined marital satisfaction and gender as moderators of the association between perceived spousal suffering and daily emotional contagion. Based on empathy-altruism and interdependent sel...
Article
When examining older adults' health behaviors and psychological health, it is important to consider the social context. The purpose of this study was to examine in older adult marriages whether each spouse's physical activity predicted changes in their own (actor effects) and their partner's (partner effects) depressive symptoms. Gender differences...
Article
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Scholars argue about whether age stereotypes (beliefs about old people) are becoming more negative or positive over time. No previous study has systematically tested the trend of age stereotypes over more than 20 years, due to lack of suitable data. Our aim was to fill this gap by investigating whether age stereotypes have changed over the last two...
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To determine how older adult spouses react to their partners' interpersonal suffering. Spouses of individuals with musculoskeletal pain were recorded describing their partners' suffering while their blood pressure (BP) was monitored. After the account, spouses described their distress. Speeches were transcribed and analyzed with Linguistic Inquiry...
Article
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Negative age stereotypes that older individuals assimilate from their culture predict detrimental outcomes, including worse physical function. We examined, for the first time, whether positive age stereotypes, presented subliminally across multiple sessions in the community, would lead to improved outcomes. Each of 100 older individuals (age = 61-9...
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Objective: To examine whether the age stereotypes of older individuals would become more negative or else show resiliency following stressful events and to examine whether age-stereotype negativity would increase the likelihood of experiencing a stressful event (i.e., hospitalization). Method: Age stereotypes of 231 participants, 70 years and ol...
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Older military veterans are at greater risk for psychiatric disorders than same-aged non-veterans. However, little is known about factors that may protect older veterans from developing these disorders. We considered whether an association exists between the potentially stress-reducing factor of resistance to negative age stereotypes and lower prev...
Article
Objective: We examined whether older caregiving veterans differ from noncaregiving veterans in terms of health and psychosocial factors and how these factors and caregiving aspects (i.e., hours, relationship type) relate to caregiving strain and reward. We also evaluated two hypotheses: (1) combat exposure provides protection from emotional caregi...
Article
Older individuals often believe they can drive better than their contemporaries. This belief is an example of downward social-comparisons; they can be self-enhancing tools that lead to beneficial outcomes. As predicted, we found that drivers who engaged in downward social-comparisons were significantly less likely to have adverse driving events ove...
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Ageism has been found to exist throughout a wide variety of societal institutions. Whether it also exists in social networking sites has not been previously considered. To explore this possibility, we conducted a content analysis of each publicly accessible Facebook group that concentrated on older individuals. The site “Descriptions” of the 84 gro...
Article
Studies of the relationship between retirement and subsequent health, including longevity, have produced mixed findings. One reason may be that these studies have not taken attitudes toward retirement into account. In the current study we examined whether attitudes toward retirement can impact longevity. The cohort consisted of 394 participants who...
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Research suggests that greater ethnic density correlates with worse health among African Americans but better health among Hispanic Americans. These conflicting patterns may arise from Hispanic American samples being older than African American samples. We found that among 2367 Mexican American and 2790 African American participants older than 65 y...
Article
Examined whether handwriting can act as a tool to monitor the influence of negative self-stereotypes on the elderly. Handwriting samples of 20 Ss (mean age 71 yrs) were randomly selected, with half of the sample taken from individuals who had been subliminally exposed to positive stereotypes of aging while the other half was taken from individuals...
Article
Little is known about the psychological state of those who leave a stigmatized group. We examined individuals who previously belonged to a stigmatized group, the overweight, and then became normal weight. Negative stereotypes, including those relating to obesity, are internalized from the time of childhood onward; therefore, it was assumed they wou...
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Previous studies showed that negative self-stereotypes detrimentally affect the cognitive performance of marginalized group members; however, these findings were confined to short-term experiments. In the present study, we considered whether stereotypes predicted memory over time, which had not been previously examined. We also considered whether s...
Article
It is known that cultural representations, in the form of stereotypes, can influence functional health. We predicted that the influence of cultural representations, in the form of salient holidays, would extend to birth timing. On Valentine's Day, which conveys positive symbolism, there was a 3.6% increase in spontaneous births and a 12.1% increase...
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Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often comorbid with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in women; however, it is unclear whether this relationship is driven by the trauma that may lead to PTSD or if PTSD is uniquely associated with PMDD. In this study, we examine trauma and PTSD as independent correlates of PMDD. Researchers conducted a...
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To evaluate whether the stressor of perceived discrimination was associated with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and premenstrual symptoms among minority women. This study builds on previous research that found perceived discrimination was positively associated with other psychiatric illnesses. Participants were 2718 Asian, Latina, and black...
Article
Ethnic minorities in America will achieve majority by 2042, and due to their younger age distribution, will represent the largest proportion of women at risk for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Research has not addressed ethnic minority women's vulnerabilities to PMDD. The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between accu...
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Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is commonly studied in white women; consequently, it is unclear whether the prevalence of PMDD varies by race. Although a substantial proportion of black women report symptoms of PMDD, the Biocultural Model of Women's Health and research on other psychiatric disorders suggest that black women may be less like...
Article
We present a case study using a multilevel modeling approach to determine whether depressive symptoms are affected by genetic factors. Existing studies examining this question have focused on twins. The present study built on the literature by conducting a preliminary study of the heritability of depressive symptoms within extended families. At the...
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Researchers have increasingly turned their attention from younger individuals who hold age stereotypes to older individuals who are targeted by these stereotypes. The refocused research has shown that positive and negative age stereotypes held by older individuals can have beneficial and detrimental effects, respectively, on a variety of cognitive...
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Older Americans often attribute health problems to old age, rather than to extenuating circumstances. Previous studies of Americans found that age attributions predict adverse health outcomes. We examined whether culture influences both the tendency to make age attributions and their effect on aging health. We found that (a) Japanese were significa...
Article
In 2004, one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded led to a tsunami devastating two-thirds of the Sri Lankan coastline. We examined whether certain causal beliefs (attributional style and karma, a Buddhist concept used to explain bad events) are associated with tsunami survivors experiencing PTSD and poor health about six months later. Previous...
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Older individuals assimilate, and are targeted by, contradictory positive and negative age stereotypes. It was unknown whether the influence of stereotype valence is stronger when the stereotype content corresponds to the outcome domain. We randomly assigned older individuals to either positive-cognitive, negative-cognitive, positive-physical, or n...
Article
When older individuals apply negative age stereotypes to themselves, they can adversely influence a wide range of outcomes (Levy, Slade, Kunkel, & Kasl, 2002). These outcomes include a greater cardiovascular response to stress and worse health behaviors, such as higher tobacco use (Levy, Hausdorff, Hencke, & Wei, 2000; Levy & Myers, 2004), both of...
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Job displacement is widely considered a negative life event associated with subsequent economic decline and depression as established by numerous prior studies. However, little is known about whether the form of job displacement (i.e. layoffs versus plant closings) differentially affects depression. We assess the effects of different ways in which...
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A neglected topic in aging depression research is the potential role of the parent-adult child relationship. In this study we examined whether adult children's reports of having relied upon parents for instrumental and expressive support are associated with parents' depressive symptoms. The sample included 304 parents (aged 50-72 years), matched to...
Article
Although it has been shown that White elders are vulnerable to the influence of age stereotypes, it was not known whether this effect applied to African American elders. In the present study, African American elders were randomly assigned to negative or positive implicit-age-stereotype groups. Compared to participants in the positive age-stereotype...
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Rigidity has been previously associated with the propensity of dominant group members to target stigmatized groups with negative stereotypes. It was considered in this study whether or not rigidity predicts that members of a stigmatized group, the elderly will target their own group with negative aging stereotypes; and, if so, whether these stereot...
Article
The incidence of HIV and AIDS is growing faster among individuals 50 and older compared to those under 40. Although the majority of clinical trials aimed at treating diseases have been found to exclude older individuals, it is not yet known whether this bias extends to sexually transmitted disease (STD) risk-reduction clinical trials published in a...
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When the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami suddenly hit unsuspecting coastal populations in Sri Lanka, it inflicted unprecedented devastation including 35,000 deaths and 500,000 people displaced. Evaluating the psychological impact of this natural disaster provides valuable insights into planning interventions and disaster preparedness. A cross-sectional s...
Article
Traditional methods of setting curricular guidelines using experts or consensus panels may miss important areas of knowledge, skills, and attitudes that need to be addressed in the training of medical students and residents. To seek input from medical students and internal medicine residents ("trainees") on their perception of their needs for train...
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This study examined the role of religion and spirituality in older adults’ functional recovery following an AMI. Participants were interviewed within 2weeks of the AMI about their religious beliefs. Functional recovery was evaluated using the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) at one month and seven months. We found that those who reported a...
Article
It has been found that the elderly population is underrepresented in clinical trials aimed at disease treatment. It is unknown to what extent this group is also excluded from clinical trials aimed at reducing health-risk behaviors. We systematically reviewed clinical trials targeting the leading health-risk behaviors, as identified by Healthy Peopl...
Article
The Department of Health and Human Services initiated a pilot "microgrant" or small grants program in 2001 to promote Healthy People 2010 (HP 2010) implemented by the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. This article describes the 103 agencies funded under this initiative and 67 control group agencies. It evaluates the HP 2010 focus areas targe...
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Although age-related hearing loss is one of the most prevalent conditions affecting older individuals, little research has been conducted on the social-psychological factors that might contribute to it. The present study examines whether older individuals' age stereotypes predict screened hearing over time. The sample consisted of 546 community-dwe...
Article
We considered whether positive and stable self-stereotypes of stigmatized group members can influence functioning (in contrast, stereotype threat theory suggests these influential self-stereotypes are limited to ones that are negative and situational). Specifically, we examined older individuals' positive age stereotypes after a life-threatening ev...
Article
A number of studies have found that primary control declines in old age and is lower in Asian countries, while secondary control increases in old age and is higher in Asian countries. We examined whether these patterns may be due to the mediating influence of interdependence. In a sample of 557 young and old adults in Japan and the United States, p...
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A controversy exists about the connection between the disclosure of traumatic experiences and individuals' health. The present study explores the factors associated with disclosure among Holocaust survivors who volunteered to participate in a video testimony project. Fifty Holocaust testimonies were viewed and coded by two raters. As predicted, lev...