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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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    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.
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    3. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2019. "Unhappiness and Pain in Modern America: A Review Essay, and Further Evidence, on Carol Graham's Happiness for All?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 57(2), pages 385-402, June.
    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. 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.
    4. 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," Publications of Darmstadt Technical University, Institute for Business Studies (BWL) 77470, Darmstadt Technical University, Department of Business Administration, Economics and Law, Institute for Business Studies (BWL).
    5. Adrian Chadi, 2019. "Dissatisfied with life or with being interviewed? Happiness and the motivation to participate in a survey," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 53(3), pages 519-553, October.
    6. Marcel Raab & Anette Fasang & Moritz Hess, 2018. "Pathways to death: The co-occurrence of physical and mental health in the last years of life," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 38(53), pages 1619-1634.
    7. 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).
    8. Bruce Headey & Ruud Muffels, 2018. "A Theory of Life Satisfaction Dynamics: Stability, Change and Volatility in 25-Year Life Trajectories in Germany," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 140(2), pages 837-866, November.
    9. 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.
    10. Liu, Sarah Y. & Wrosch, Carsten & Morin, Alexandre J.S. & Quesnel-Vallée, Amélie & Pruessner, Jens C., 2019. "Changes in self-esteem and chronic disease across adulthood: A 16-year longitudinal analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 242(C).
    11. 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).
    12. 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).
    13. 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 Online Working Paper Series 2011:6, University of Oslo, Health Economics Research Programme.
    14. Janina Nemitz, 2022. "Increasing longevity and life satisfaction: is there a catch to living longer?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 35(2), pages 557-589, April.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

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