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Late-Life Decline in Well-Being across Adulthood in Germany, the UK, and the US: Something Is Seriously Wrong at the End of Life

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Author Info

  • Denis Gerstorf
  • Nilam Ram
  • Guy Mayraz
  • Mira Hidajat
  • Ulman Lindenberger
  • Gert G. Wagner
  • Jürgen Schupp

Abstract

Throughout adulthood and old age, levels of well-being appear to remain relatively stable. However, evidence is emerging that late in life well-being declines considerably. Using long-term longitudinal data of deceased participants in national samples from Germany, the UK, and the US, we examine how long this period lasts. In all three nations and across the adult age range, well-being was relatively stable over age, but declined rapidly with impending death. Articulating notions of terminal decline associated with impending death, we identified prototypical transition points in each study between three and five years prior to death, after which normative rates of decline steepened by a factor of three or more. The findings suggest that mortality-related mechanisms drive late-life changes in well-being and highlight the need for further refinement of psychological concepts about how and when late-life declines in psychosocial functioning prototypically begin.

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File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.354232.de/diw_sp0286.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) in its series SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research with number 286.

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Length: 23 p.
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp286

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Related research

Keywords: Selective mortality; successful aging; differential aging; psychosocial factors; well-being; multiphase growth model;

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References

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  1. Bruce Headey, 2008. "Life Goals Matter to Happiness: A Revision of Set-Point Theory," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 86(2), pages 213-231, April.
  2. Oliver Schilling, 2006. "Development of Life Satisfaction in Old Age: Another View on the "Paradox''," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 75(2), pages 241-271, 01.
  3. Verbrugge, Lois M. & Jette, Alan M., 1994. "The disablement process," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 1-14, January.
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Cited by:
  1. Denis Gerstorf & Gert G. Wagner, 2010. "Lebenszufriedenheit am Ende des Lebens in Ost- und Westdeutschland: die DDR wirft einen langen Schatten," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 320, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  2. Stefano Bartolini & Ennio Bilancini & Francesco Sarracino, 2013. "Predicting the Trend of Well-Being in Germany: How Much Do Comparisons, Adaptation and Sociability Matter?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 114(2), pages 169-191, November.
  3. Bruce Headey & Ruud Muffels & Gert Wagner, 2013. "Choices Which Change Life Satisfaction: Similar Results for Australia, Britain and Germany," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 112(3), pages 725-748, July.
  4. Adrian Chadi, 2014. "Dissatisfied with Life or with Being Interviewed? Happiness and Motivation to Participate in a Survey," IAAEU Discussion Papers 201403, Institute of Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union (IAAEU).
  5. Karlsson, Martin & Klohn, Florian, 2011. "Some notes on how to catch a red herring Ageing, time-to-death & care costs for older people in Sweden," Darmstadt Discussion Papers in Economics 57663, Darmstadt Technical University, Department of Business Administration, Economics and Law, Institute of Economics (VWL).
  6. Bert Van Landeghem, 2012. "Panel Conditioning and Self-Reported Satisfaction: Evidence from International Panel Data and Repeated Cross-Sections," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 484, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  7. Karlsson, Martin & Klohn, Florian, 2011. "Some notes on how to catch a red herring - Ageing, time-to-death and care costs for older people in Sweden," HERO On line Working Paper Series 2011:6, Oslo University, Health Economics Research Programme.
  8. Jens Ambrasat & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2011. "Comparing the Predictive Power of Subjective and Objective Health Indicators: Changes in Hand Grip Strength and Overall Satisfaction with Life as Predictors of Mortality," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 398, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).

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