Cross-sectional studies have found older adults to have lower levels of emotional distress after natural disasters. The maturation hypothesis suggests that older adults are less reactive to stress events, whereas the inoculation hypothesis argues that prior experience with disaster is protective. One hundred and sixty-six adults aged 30 to 102 were interviewed regarding the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Longitudinal data were available on depressed mood before and after the earthquake. The maturation hypothesis was generally not supported. The young-old were least depressed; however, this age difference was present prior to the earthquake. The old-old showed lowest levels of earthquake-specific rumination, but age did not buffer the relationship between damage exposure and rumination. The inoculation hypothesis was supported for depressed mood. Prior earthquake experience was related to lower postearthquake depression scores.
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