Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (MPHIL)


Sociology and Social Policy

First Advisor

Dr. William K. M. LEE

Second Advisor

Prof. David R PHILLIPS


The present study investigates to what extent the life events, which includes self-perceived health, self-esteem, internal locus of control and coping effectiveness as indicators, could explain the occurrence of positive affect and depression amongst these elderly persons. The relationships between life events, self-esteem-level, internal locus of control, coping effectiveness, and psychological well-being among older persons (aged 60 or above) in Hong Kong are examined. Eight pilot study cases have been carried out in order to test for the validity of the research instrument. One hundred and three elderly respondents were successfully interviewed face-to-face from three main estates in Tseung Kwan O district, a new-town area in Eastern New Territories in Hong Kong: Po Lam Estate1 (N = 46), Tsui Lam Estate (N = 36), and King Lam Estate (N = 21).

In exploring the life events of respondents over the half year past, a checklist (23 life items) was used. These items covered most of the events which are commonly found in an elderly cohort. In exploring the psychological well-being of the respondents, concepts were operationalized into 14 questions (9 items for positive affect and 5 items for depression), which were devised by Lawton (1987), to cover two constructs (i.e. positive affect and depression). The reliability for positive affect reached 0.91 (alpha), for depression reached 0.90 (alpha). Self-esteem levels of the respondents were measured by using the Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale (alpha = 0.84). Locus of control (9 items) was measured by an instrument devised by Siu (1998) and the reliability was 0.87 (alpha). Respondents’ coping effectiveness was assessed by an instrument (13 items) which was originally developed by Moos, Cronkite, Billings and Finney (1996) and modified by the researcher for the present study. The instrument covered four constructs (i.e. problem focus, avoidance, positive appraisal and emotional discharge) and their reliabilities ranged from 0.39 to 0.47 (alpha). The results of the study show that the average life events score of the respondents was 84.66 with the standard deviation 55.50, which means that generally they are at low stress level due to the occurrence of life events. Age-associated change in subjective health was very small in the study. Respondents showed a positive sense of personal worth and have medium level of internal locus of control. They tended to use more positive coping strategies to solve their problem, but the use of those coping strategies was not frequent. With regards to coping effectiveness, the study shows that there are gender differences. Female respondents thought that being more objective to problems did not help to solve them, whereas male respondents tended to think that emotion-focused coping strategies did not help to solve problems. Moreover, respondents showed both low level of positive affect and depression.

No significant correlation has been found between life events and positive affect, but there is significant correlation between life events and depression. The study supports previous researches that show self-perceived health, self-esteem, and internality are significantly correlated with psychological well-being. However, only few coping strategies USE/HELP and coping effectiveness are partially correlated with psychological well-being.

There are some intervening effects of self-esteem and internal locus of control found in the relationship between life events and psychological well-being. However, no intervening effect of coping strategies USE has been found in such a relationship, and only avoidance coping effectiveness showed a intervening (moderating) effect on the relationship between life events and positive affect. No intervening effect was found in the life events-psychological well-being model. However, some coping USE and effectiveness showed intervening (mediating) effects in the self-esteem-psychological well-being model and internality-psychological well-being model. Further studies are necessary to enforce the roles of the main variables in the proposed framework.

Recommended Citation

She, K. H. B. (2004). A study of life events and psychological well-being among older persons in Hong Kong: The role of self-esteem, coping and locus of control (Master's thesis, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from

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