Background: An estimated 20% of adults over the age of 55 experience clinical mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. For older adults, mental health concerns are often undetected, concomitant with physical challenges, and ultimately go untreated. These realities have significant implications for older adults’ day-to-day functioning, particularly among the oldest old. Objective: The present study examined the ability of cognition and personality in explaining depression within a sample of octogenarians and centenarians. Methods: Participants were assessed during the most recent cross-sectional data collection of the Georgia Centenarian Study. The final eligible sample included 76 octogenarians (mean: 84.25 years, SD: 2.82; range: 81–90) and 158 centenarians and near centenarians (mean: 99.82 years, SD: 1.72; range: 98–109). Results: Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to examine the relation between key variables and depressive symptoms in the two age groups. Blocks entered into the analyses included: demographics (i.e. age group, residential status, sex, and ethnicity) and functioning, memory and problem-solving ability, and personality (i.e. extraversion and neuroticism). Models differed for octogenarians and centenarians. Decreased problem-solving ability was related to greater depressive symptoms among octogenarians. For centenarians, institutional residence and increased neurotic tendencies were related to greater depressive symptoms. Conclusion: Study findings demonstrate the need to examine a variety of factors which influence mental health in later life and to consider the unique contexts and differential experiences of octogenarians and centenarians.

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