The structure and health correlates of trait repetitive thought in older adults

Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Abbey R. Roach, Daniel R. Evans, Lindsey J. Schipper, Audrey K. Darville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Repetitive thought (RT) involves frequent or prolonged thoughts about oneself and one's world, encompassing discrete forms such as trait worry, rumination, processing, and reminiscing. These forms of RT can be described using 3 basic, underlying qualities: total propensity for RT of all types, valence (positive vs. negative content), and purpose (searching or uncertainty vs. solving or certainty). The adaptiveness of discrete forms with regard to health is likely to be related to these qualities, particularly valence and total propensity. The present study confirmed the model and identified the relationship of these qualities of RT to subjective psychological, physical, and cognitive health in older adults aged 60-94 (N = 179). As predicted, more negatively valenced trait RT was associated with worse psychological, physical, and cognitive health. More total propensity for RT was associated only with worse psychological health. Searching purpose was associated only with worse cognitive health. In turn, negatively valenced RT was predicted by poorer executive functions, suggesting that such functions may be important for directing this quality of RT. The valence of older adults' RT is important insofar as it may contribute to their sense of good or ill health. However, the propensity for all kinds of RT to associate with poorer psychological health may reflect the co-occurrence of negative and positive RT, such as rumination and emotional processing. Although RT has not been extensively investigated in older adults, it appears to play an important role in their subjective health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-515
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology and Aging
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Executive functions
  • Health
  • Processing
  • Rumination
  • Worry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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