Judith G. Chipperfield, Raymond P. Perry, Reinhard Pekrun, Jeremy M. Hamm, Frieder R. Lang; Paradoxical Effects of Perceived Control on Survival. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 2017 gbx002. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbx002
Appraising health as controllable is typically thought to be adaptive, but recent evidence suggests the paradoxical possibility that perceived control (PC) can be detrimental. We considered the premise that high PC should have a survival benefit when it is part of an adaptive mindset involving high value (importance) for health, but it might be detrimental when it is part of a mindset comprised of low health value (HV). In addition, we examined whether the survival consequences of PC and HV vary with advancing age.
Interviews were conducted with a heterogeneous sample of community-dwelling adults (n = 341; 72–99 years) to assess appraisals of control and value in the domain of health. Mortality data were obtained over 12 years from a provincial health registry.
Both age and HV moderated the PC effect on mortality. The predicted beneficial and detrimental PC effects emerged at younger ages: higher PC predicted longer survival times when health was highly valued but shorter survival times when health was less highly valued.
These findings deepen the knowledge regarding the conditions under which PC is or is not adaptive, suggesting the consequences depend on age and the extent to which health is valued.