Personality moderates the relation between inflexibility and mental health symptoms as mediated by reactions to retirement losses in former competitors.

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Zimmermann, Jane A., 1992-

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Research suggests that psychological inflexibility can increase adverse mental health outcomes, but studies have not examined how Big Five personality traits might moderate the effects of psychological inflexibility on mental health outcomes. Moreover, this relation has not been applied among former competitors, nor have studies included reactions to retirement losses as a potential mediator in the examination of inflexibility and mental health. Research has established the importance of “retiring well,” but no studies to date have examined how inflexibility and personality may interact to predict outcomes like depression and anxiety. This study examines how inflexibility, reactions to retirement, and personality are associated with the mental health outcomes of depression and anxiety in a sample of former competitors within Drum Corps International, an elite marching and performance organization. Data were taken from a larger study examining which factors may impact transition from elite marching in DCI to everyday life. Results from 460 retired competitors (22-80 years) were analyzed. A loss of control reaction to retirement mediated the effect of inflexibility and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Conscientiousness moderated the effects of psychological inflexibility on anxiety and depressive symptoms through reactions to retirement losses. Specifically, at lower levels of Neuroticism, the size of the indirect effect of inflexibility on symptoms of depression through a loss of control response style was higher. Neuroticism was also a moderator of the indirect effect through positive reappraisal such that for those low on Neuroticism, inflexibility was associated with higher positive reappraisal, which predicted lower depressive symptoms. Extraversion attenuated the direct effect of inflexibility on the avoidant response style, but it did not moderate the indirect effects predicting symptoms of anxiety or depression. Conscientiousness attenuated the direct effect of inflexibility on both loss of control and avoidant response styles, but it did not moderate the indirect effects predicting symptoms of anxiety or depression. Clinical implications for providers of acceptance and commitment therapy are discussed.

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