The Relevance of Control Beliefs for Health and Aging

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Figure 11.1

Conceptual model of the relationship between control beliefs and aging-related outcomes and performance with postulated mediators (based on Lachman, 2006; Miller & Lachman, 1999).

arousal tion of failure lead individuals to put forth less effort and be less persistent (
reported a consistent small negative correlation between an individual’s mSe and scores on a mnemonics usage scale, but several studies have shown that mSe is not significantly linked to the tendency to use such strategies furthermore, in a recent study, did not find a relationship between mSe and the amount of time participants spent on a free-recall task. mSe, however, has been shown to impact goal systems and the choice of activities
). According to the results obtained by dicts investment in memory intervention programs.
A potential mechanism linking control beliefs to better health is engagement in beneficial health- related behaviors. Those who have a higher sense of control are more likely to exercise regularly, eat a healthier diet, and therefore have better health cognitive model of physical activity by

, self-efficacy is a primary determinant of consistent, health-promoting levels of physical activity. It is important to note, however, that the relationship between exercise self-efficacy beliefs and exercise behaviors is reciprocal. Behavior change is also determined by outcome expectations or sense of control- lability; that is, whether one expects one’s actions to lead to desirable outcomes. One might have high self- efficacy for exercise, but if one believes that exercise does not do anything to prevent or remediate aging- related losses, there would belittle motivation to continue exercising (

). Ina longitudinal investigation of exercise self- efficacy and control beliefs in a sample of previously sedentary older adults with at least one disability, neupert, Lachman & Whitbourne (2009) found that exercise beliefs and exercise behavior were associated with one another and that beliefs developed during an intervention were important for maintenance of an exercise regimen. Those with higher control beliefs chose to use higher intensity and resistance levels during the intervention, and were more likely to continue exercising 9 to 12 months after the intervention program ended.
findings about control as a moderating or buffering factor are also promising. and health was moderated by a sense of control. The social gradient of health is well-documented; those with lower SeS, either measured by income or educational attainment, are more likely to have poor health
). What is less well known is under what conditions the gradient can be reduced. findings suggest that a sense of control is one psy- chosocial factor that can buffer the effects of low SeS. Although those in the lower SeS groups, on average, have a lower sense of control, there are individual differences, and indeed overlapping distributions. most interesting is that among middle-aged and older adults with lower SeS, those who also manage to have a high sense of control have health levels comparable to their high education counterparts

). This is promising in that it suggests that sense of control is one modifiable factor that can help those in lower SeS groups to break the cycle of poor health. One challenge is to determine how it is that some in the lower SeS groups are able to develop a high sense of control in the face of the real difficulties of making ends meet. This issue is similar to the challenge of helping older adults to maintain a sense of control in the face of real changes and losses associated with aging. In future work, it would be useful to consider whether older adults with a high sense of control have health and cognitive functioning more comparable to young adults proposed physiological explanations for the stress buffering effect of control beliefs. They argued that external control beliefs may have certain immunosuppressive tendencies that reduce the number of helper cells and lower the ability of T cells to function properly, which may lead to health problems. locus of control moderated the relation between


(a stress hormone participants with more internal locus of control, who also
themselves to have
over the stressor, showed a reduced
response. Higher control beliefs are also associated with physiological changes such as reduced heart rate reactivity and increased blood pressure in stressful situations
). Ina study of older adults, self-regulation/coping skills training showed a significant relationship between decreased
level and increased
perceived control
and ratings of improved physical health. found that adaptive control strategies minimized cortisol secretions associated with functional disabilities among older adults.
Whereas these summarized studies have provided insight into physiological reactions to stressors in the laboratory and individual differences in the buffering effects of control beliefs on the relationship between stressor exposure and well-being (e.g.,
), other recent studies have begun to examine these relationships as they unfold overtime within the context of daily experiences. for example, greater personal control is related to reduced reactivity to stressors in daily life (e.g.,
). When faced with stressful situations, a strong sense of control has also been linked to low levels of

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