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What is the impact of life story work on psycho-social wellness in older adults?

A study conducted in Hong Kong examined if life story books or life story work impacted psychosocial well-being in older adults.

Life story narratives are often a popular tool in research with older adults. It gives attention to interests, personal wishes and attitudes of older people as the sum total of a lifetime of experience. Approaches using life story work examines the thinking processes as well as the psychological health of the older adults. In particular, life story work is a social work intervention that helps participants recognize their past, present, and future.

A recent study published in BMC Geriatrics used narrative stories to study its impact on three psychological aspects of older adults: satisfaction, self-esteem, and mental well-being. The study also investigated whether there were differences in those with and without depression.

Using biographical, narrative, and reminiscence approaches capture unique elements of individual stories of each individual, rich in perspectives. For the study, the researchers focused on creating a life story book and if it would impact self-esteem and life satisfaction in older adults.

The study recruited 57 participants from senior community centres. They excluded participants with psychiatric illnesses and those participating were over 60 years of age in Hong Kong.

A trained student helped compile the life story books and scanned photographs of seniors participating, and found pictures connected to the individual’s hometown to make it more lively and attractive. The researchers conducted 60-minute meetings at community centres or the homes of the seniors. The number of pages of life story work depended on participation by the seniors and how they liked to be projected in their books.

The study found that 39 of the participants did not have depressive symptoms while 18 had depressive symptoms. The mean age of participants was 74 and most of them were female. Of the participants, 32 were single and most had either primary education or no education. Sixty percent of them believed in an oriental ancestral religion reported having no formal occupation or not having worked before.

At the start of the study, the participants differed in three areas: whether they had sleeping difficulties, satisfaction with the overall support they received, and their physical functioning levels. The researchers performed an additional examination to see if the completion of a life story book with volunteers or without led to any differences statistically.

Participants who completed the life story book by themselves had a better score on the general health questionnaire than those who completed it with volunteers helping.

The study led to the conclusion that there was no impact on self-esteem or no improvements seen in the sample. This is in line with previous research done. There was also no significant improvement in life satisfaction as a result of the life story books This leads to an inconclusive result. While life story books do not seem to impact self-esteem or life satisfaction, the clinical effects of this on such broad concepts may not be detected easily.

However, the study did indicate a positive impact on individuals with depression and on the general mental well-being of the community, particularly on individuals who are older community-dwelling adults.

Written by Sonia Leslie Fernandez, Medical News Writer

Reference: Lai, C. K., Igarashi, A., Clare, T. K., & Chin, K. C. (2018). Does life story work improve psychosocial well-being for older adults in the community? A quasi-experimental study. BMC geriatrics18(1), 119.



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