American Sociological Association

The Link between Functional Limitations and Depressive Symptoms: The Explanatory Role of Self-conceptions

Having more physical limitations predicts greater depressive symptoms. However, relatively few studies examine self-conceptions as potential explanations for this association. Using ordinary least squares regression on panel data collected in Miami-Dade County, Florida (2001 and 2004, N = 1,362), we examine the effect of functional limitations on five dimensions of the self: self-esteem, mastery, mattering, introspection, and emotional reliance. We find that having more, and increasing, functional limitations diminishes self-esteem and mastery and increases introspection and emotional reliance. These dimensions of the self collectively account for approximately one third of the effect of limitations on depressive symptoms, with self-esteem and mastery having the largest mediating effects. This study builds on prior findings by using panel data to address not only the influence of functional impairment on multiple dimensions of the self-concept but also the role of each in explaining disability’s effect on depressive symptoms. It also responds to the call for the sociology of mental health to give greater attention to self and identity processes.


Redmond, R. A., Barrett, A. E.





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