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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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Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Denis Gerstorf & Nilam Ram & Guy Mayraz & Mira Hidajat & Ulman Lindenberger & Gert G. Wagner & Jürgen Schupp, 2010. "Late-Life Decline in Well-Being across Adulthood in Germany, the UK, and the US: Something Is Seriously Wrong at the End of Life," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 286, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp286
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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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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bruce Headey, 2008. "Life Goals Matter to Happiness: A Revision of Set-Point Theory," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, 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: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 75(2), pages 241-271, January.
    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. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2017. "Unhappiness and Pain in Modern America: A Review Essay, and Further Evidence, on Carol Graham's Happiness for All?," IZA Discussion Papers 11184, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Bruce Headey & Ruud Muffels, 2016. "Towards a Theory of Life Satisfaction: Accounting for Stability, Change and Volatility in 25-Year Life Trajectories in Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 864, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    3. 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 207, Darmstadt University of Technology, Department of Law and Economics.
    4. 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: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 114(2), pages 169-191, November.
    5. Chadi, Adrian, 2014. "Dissatisfied with Life or with Being Interviewed? Happiness and Motivation to Participate in a Survey," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100505, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    6. 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).
    7. 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).
    8. 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.
    9. 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).
    10. Bruce Headey & Ruud Muffels & Gert Wagner, 2013. "Choices Which Change Life Satisfaction: Similar Results for Australia, Britain and Germany," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 112(3), pages 725-748, July.

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    Keywords

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

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