Project

The Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives (NCCR LIVES), Individual project (IP) 212 – Relationships in later life

Goal: IP212 aims at investigating the processes of overcoming vulnerabilising factors in close relationships in middle- and old-aged adults. Specifically the project seeks to explore the various paths of psychological adaptation to major stressors related to marital relationship in the second half of life, and to identify resources and possibilities of psychosocial prevention and psychological intervention. On the one hand the focus is on the determinants and outcomes of critical life events related to intimate relationships, whether due to divorce or bereavement. On the other hand we are interested in continuity and change of marriages in middle and older age, and in the role of chronic stressors such as health problems or caregiving strain, which are major challenges for marital quality.

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Project log

Jeannette Brodbeck
added a research item
Intimate partner loss in later life can be one of the most stressful events in adulthood. Individuals who struggle to adapt to the new life conditions may need support from a mental health professional. However, less is known about the likelihood to seek professional help after separation, divorce, or bereavement in later life and associated factors. This study investigated professional help-seeking (PHS) for partner loss after a long-term marriage in separated, divorced, and bereaved individuals and examined the extent to which specific person and event-related variables, as well as depressive symptoms, increase its likelihood. The data were derived from the LIVES “Intimate Partner Loss Study.” The self-administered questionnaires were completed by 388 adults. PHS was higher after separation (57%) and divorce (49%), compared to widowhood (18%). Higher likelihood of PHS was associated with separation and divorce, female gender, having someone to count on, loss unexpectedness, needing more time to overcome the loss, and more depressive symptoms. Informing individuals unlikely to seek help (e.g., males, bereaved, and individuals with no confidant) about PHS benefits may facilitate adaptation to partner loss.
Anik Debrot
added a research item
Guidance is commonly used in Internet interventions. However, there is little work on how guidance can be optimally implemented in guided self-help approaches. Despite some general models on guidance, there is no theoretical framework as how to optimally individualize the guidance to the participants needs. The Motive-Oriented Therapeutic Relationship (MOTR) approach is based on the Plan Analyses (Caspar, 1995, 2022) and allows the therapist to provide answers that fulfil the participant’s needs in a way that is acceptable for the participants and is useful for the therapeutic goals. We argue that MOTR can be applied to guidance in Internet interventions and that it can improve adherence and outcome through different processes that help the participant navigate through different difficulties encounter during the completion of an internet intervention.
Hansjörg Znoj
added 2 research items
Introduction: As Switzerland faced the "second wave" of COVID-19 incidences, a discussion of a potential vaccine against the virus emerged. While some individuals accept vaccines, others challenge or refuse to be vaccinated, a phenomena called vaccine hesitancy. Here, trust plays a vital role in vaccination intention. Embitterment not only goes along with the sense of being treated unjust but also innates a distrust in others. Thus, embitterment may influence individuals' vaccination intention against COVID-19. In the present study, we investigate how feelings of being socially excluded and the perceived negative impact of the pandemic are associated with embitterment and in turn, how embitterment is related to individuals' vaccination intention and the tendency to hold COVID-19-related conspiracy beliefs (CCBs). This is in regard of the perceived communication style by the government. Method: A convenience sample of 281 individuals completed an online survey developed on Qualtrics. In this cross-sectional, nonexperimental designed study, indirect effects of a moderated serial mediation were analyzed using Jamm (Jamovi, Version 0.9; 2019). Results: Results indicated that embitterment went along with increased feelings of social exclusion (β = 0.45, p < 0.001). Further, individuals high in embitterment generally indicated a higher vaccination intention against COVID-19 (β = 0.15, p < 0.01). However, embittered individuals holding CCBs had a decreased vaccination intention against COVID-19 (β = -0.71, p < 0.001). Thus, whether or not embittered individuals develop CCBs might be a crucial determinant for their vaccination intention. Noteworthy, the relationship between embitterment and the tendency to hold CCBs was reinforced by the notion of an unsatisfactory style of communication by the government. Conclusion: Taken together, results suggest that embitterment not only plays a relevant role in vaccination intention against COVID-19 but also for the susceptibility to engage in conspiracy beliefs.
Background The COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching impact on physical and mental health generate high demand and, accordingly, a great need for treatment opportunities that promote well-being and manage psychological distress. Internet-based interventions are particularly suitable for this purpose. They are easily scalable, readily accessible, and the online format allows for adherence to social distancing. For this reason, we developed an internet-based self-help intervention called ROCO to address psychological distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This randomized controlled trial aimed to examine the efficacy of the ROCO intervention. Methods A total of 107 German-speaking adults with at least mild depressive symptoms were randomized either to the intervention group with direct access to the three-week ROCO intervention plus care as usual or the waiting control group receiving care as usual. Primary outcome (depressive symptoms) and secondary outcomes (stress, anxiety, resilience, emotion regulation, health-related quality of life, embitterment, loneliness, optimism, and self-efficacy) were assessed pre- and post-treatment and at a 6-week follow-up using self-report questionnaires (e.g. Patient Health Questionnaire-9 for depressive symptoms). Results The average age was 40.36 years (SD = 14.59) and 81.3% of participants were female. The intervention did not significantly reduce primary depressive symptoms (between-group effect size: d = 0.04) and secondary outcomes such as anxiety and stress symptoms (between-group effect size: d = −0.19). However, the intervention led to a significant increase in emotion regulation skills (between-group effect size d = 0.35) and resilience (between-group effect size d = 0.38). Conclusions The internet-based self-help intervention cannot be recommended for the purpose of reducing depressive symptoms. However, the increase in emotion regulation skills and resilience suggest that the intervention may be suitable for preventive purposes, like improving overall coping with psychological distress or potential stressors. Future research is needed to examine for whom and how the intervention is most effective.
Anik Debrot
added a research item
Introduction : La perte d’un proche, par décès ou séparation, est un événement très stressant, prédictif de troubles psychiques et physiques ; 10-15% des personnes rencontrent des difficultés importantes à gérer ces évènements. Les e-interventions sont efficaces pour traiter de multiples troubles mentaux, y compris le deuil compliqué. Brodbeck et collègues (2019), ont développé en allemand une e-intervention guidée pour traiter le deuil compliqué (LIVIA) et ont démontré son efficacité. Méthode : Dans une première phase de notre projet, nous avons implémenté LIVIA de façon non-guidée en français (LIVIA 1) dans un essai clinique non-contrôlé. Nous avons évalué son efficacité et la satisfaction des 24 participantes et participants de manière quantitative (comparaison pré- et post des critères d’évaluation) et qualitative (analyse de l’enquête de satisfaction ; Efinger et collègues, 2021). Résultats : En ligne avec la littérature ayant comparé les interventions guidées et non-guidées, nos résultats sont mitigés. D’une part, la satisfaction est globalement bonne et l’e-intervention a significativement amélioré deux critères d’évaluation importants (symptômes de deuil et évitement du deuil). Cependant, les tailles d’effets étaient modestes et d’autres critères d’évaluation (par ex. : bien-être, dépression, anxiété) n’ont pas été affectés par l’intervention. Enfin, le taux d’abandon était env. trois fois plus élevé que pour la version guidée. Conclusion : Dans la deuxième phase du projet, nous visons à développer une e-intervention (LIVIA 2.0) qui soit à la fois efficace et économique en ressources. Le principal changement est la guidance sur demande. Berger et collègues (2011) ont démontré que, ayant le choix, seule une partie des participants requièrent une guidance et que l’efficacité d’une e-intervention sous cette forme égale celle avec guidance généralisée. Aussi, nous basant sur différentes sources empiriques, nous prévoyons les changements suivants : travailler sur la mémoire autobiographique et l’identité, clarifier les buts et la structure du programme, évaluer et valoriser les ressources personnelles, envoyer des messages automatisés d’encouragement et rappel et, finalement, guider individuellement les participants dans l’ordre des séances. Nous visons à recruter env. 250 participants francophones pour un essai randomisé contrôlé.
Anik Debrot
added a research item
As we write these lines, the coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) pandemic has reportedly killed over 2'400'000 people, leaving many individuals and families in mourning throughout the world. The current context has put a major strain on people as it has drastically altered our daily lives and caused many societal challenges. We are experiencing much change and multiple losses. In addition to increased unemployment and financial difficulties, COVID-19 has required exceptional sanitary measures such as social distancing, confinement and quarantine, adding a painful sense of isolation to individuals and families in mourning. Simultaneously, this context has had a serious impact on couples, many countries reporting a significant increase in separations and divorces due to spending more time together confined and separating as a result of the exacerbation of pre-existing contextual vulnerabilities that were previously milder or latent, adding further grief to already distressing circumstances. Isolation and lack of connection are at the center of these life-changing events. They likely make the grieving and separation processes more complicated and difficult for people who are left alone, without the usual opportunities for interpersonal and social support. Interpersonal loss, by death or separation, is common, but counts among the most stressful and painful life events possible. Both involve the loss of a meaningful relationship and may have significant health consequences, such as enhancing mortality risk and fostering mental or physical illnesses. Accumulating evidence indicates that interpersonal loss in divorce and breakups has numerous similarities with the grieving process after the death of a loved one. In both cases, symptoms of grief may occur, such as intrusive thoughts, ruminations, avoidance of situations or places reminiscent of the lost person, excessive idealization of the ended relationship, significant fatigue, some mental confusion coupled with the feeling of being lost, etc. Given the current circumstances that this could lead in the next few months to a potential explosion of cases of prolonged grief, it may prove relevant to provide easier access to preventive or even therapeutic psychological interventions for bereaved or separated individuals who are struggling with complicated grief symptoms and who feel the need or are seeking help to overcome their difficulties.
Dario Spini
added a research item
Following the “status anxiety hypothesis,” the psychological consequences of income inequality should be particularly severe for economically vulnerable individuals. However, oddly, income inequality is often found to affect vulnerable low-income and advantaged high-income groups equally. We argue that economic vulnerability is better captured by a financial scarcity measure and hypothesize that income inequality primarily impairs the psychological health of people facing scarcity. First, repeated cross-sectional international data (WVS: 146,034 participants; 105 country-waves) revealed that the within-country effect of national income inequality on feelings of unhappiness was limited to individuals facing scarcity (≈ 25% of the WVS population). Second, longitudinal national data (SHP: 14,790 participants; 15,595 municipality-years) revealed that the within-life-course effect of local income inequality on psychological health problems was also limited to these individuals (< 10% of the Swiss population). Income inequality by itself may not be a problem for psychological health but rather a catalyst for the consequences of scarcity.
Stefanie Spahni
added a project goal
IP212 aims at investigating the processes of overcoming vulnerabilising factors in close relationships in middle- and old-aged adults. Specifically the project seeks to explore the various paths of psychological adaptation to major stressors related to marital relationship in the second half of life, and to identify resources and possibilities of psychosocial prevention and psychological intervention. On the one hand the focus is on the determinants and outcomes of critical life events related to intimate relationships, whether due to divorce or bereavement. On the other hand we are interested in continuity and change of marriages in middle and older age, and in the role of chronic stressors such as health problems or caregiving strain, which are major challenges for marital quality.