International Psychogeriatrics

Research Article

A psychological pathway from insomnia to depression among older adults

Paul Sadlera1 c1, Suzanne McLarena1 and Megan Jenkinsa1

a1 School of Health Sciences, University of Ballarat, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia


Background: Higher levels of insomnia predict greater depression severity among older adults; however, the psychological mechanisms underlying this relationship are unclear. This study tested a path model that explored whether dysfunctional beliefs about sleep and hopelessness mediated the relationship from insomnia to depression. It was hypothesized that insomnia would predict depression, both directly and indirectly, via dysfunctional beliefs about sleep and hopelessness.

Methods: A community sample of 218 independent-living Australian older adults aged from 65 to 96 years completed a self-report questionnaire package. From the initial 218 participants, 171 completed a measure of depression three months later.

Results: Path analysis demonstrated that maladaptive sleep beliefs and hopelessness partly explained how insomnia influenced depression, irrespective of the presence of obstructive sleep apnea and/or restless legs syndrome.

Conclusions: An older adult's beliefs about sleep and sense of hopelessness were important psychological factors that helped explain how insomnia related to depression.

(Received January 15 2013)

(Reviewed February 25 2013)

(Revised March 28 2013)

(Accepted April 08 2013)

(Online publication May 13 2013)

Key words:

  • insomnia;
  • dysfunctional beliefs about sleep;
  • hopelessness;
  • depression;
  • older adults


c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: Paul Sadler, School of Health Sciences, University of Ballarat, PO Box 663, Ballarat 3353, Victoria, Australia. Phone: +61 (03) 5327 9000; Fax: +61 (03) 5327 9704. Email: