Research: What works for older workers’ mental health? | Older workers’ reactions to abusive supervision

What works for older workers’ mental health?

Choi, M., Dabelko-Schoeny, H.,  Lee, M. and Bunger, A. Does Self-Efficacy and Team Leader Equity Matter for Older Workers’ Mental Health?, The Gerontologist, Volume 60, Issue 6, September 2020, pp. 996–1004.

Background and Objectives

Prolonged working life is not necessarily associated with good mental health. Despite the importance of healthy working life in later years, little research has been conducted on predictors of mental health in the workplace among older workers. This study aimed to investigate how personal (self-efficacy) and team (leader equity) factors are associated with older workers’ mental health through work engagement.

Research Design and Methods

We analyzed responses of 508 U.S. workers aged 50 years and older from the Age and Generations Study data using structural equation modeling.


Results showed that perceived self-efficacy was a strong predictor of mental health. Also, work engagement was a powerful mechanism for promoting older adults’ mental health; engagement partially mediated the relationship between perceived self-efficacy and mental health, and fully mediated the relationship between team leader equity and mental health.

Discussion and Implications

The findings highlight how important it is for employers to invest in human capital development, suggesting human resource programs should focus on strategies that target older adults’ engagement through tailored self-efficacy programs and inclusive leadership training programs. Such attempts would contribute to enhancing the mental health of older workers.

Older workers’ reactions to abusive supervision

Peng, Y., Xu, X., and Matthews, R. Older and Less Deviant Reactions to Abusive Supervision? A Moderated Mediation Model of Age and Cognitive Reappraisal, Work, Aging and Retirement, Volume 6, Issue 3, July 2020, pp. 195–205.


Given the significant costs of abusive supervision and the broad implications of an increasingly aging workforce, scholars have called for examining the role of employee age in the abusive supervision literature. In response to this call, this study introduced a moderated mediation model of age, abusive supervision, cognitive reappraisal, and workplace deviance based on socioemotional selectivity theory. We tested this model with a sample of 614 working adults.

Results suggest that employee age significantly moderated the effect of abusive supervision on cognitive reappraisal such that abusive supervision was negatively related to cognitive reappraisal for younger workers, but not for older workers. Cognitive reappraisal was negatively related to workplace (i.e., interpersonal and organizational) deviance.

Furthermore, there was a significant moderated mediation effect where the indirect relationship between abusive supervision and workplace deviance via cognitive reappraisal was significant for younger workers, but not for older workers.

Our findings suggest that older workers’ emotional competencies (e.g., use of cognitive reappraisal) may account for age-related advantages in coping with abusive supervision. Theoretical and implications were discussed.