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Forecasting Life Satisfaction across Adulthood: Benefits of Seeing a Dark Future?

Author

Listed:
  • Frieder R. Lang
  • David Weiss
  • Denis Gerstorf
  • Gert G. Wagner

Abstract

Anticipating one's future self is a unique human capacity that contributes importantly to adaptation and health throughoutadulthood and old age. Using the adult lifespan sample of the national German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP; N > 10,000, age range 18-96 years), we investigated age-differential stability, correlates, and outcomes of accuracy in anticipation of future life satisfaction across six subsequent 5-year time intervals. As expected, we observed few age differences in current life satisfaction, but stronger age differences in future expectations: Younger adults anticipated improved future life satisfaction, overestimating their actual life satisfaction 5 years later. By contrast, older adults were more pessimistic about the future, generally underestimating their actual life satisfaction after 5 years. Such age differences persisted above and beyond the effects of self-rated health and income. Survival analyses revealed that in later adulthood, underestimating one's life satisfaction 5 years later was related to lower hazard ratios for disability (n = 735 became disabled) and mortality (n = 879 died) across 10 or more years, even after controlling for age, sex, education, income, and self-rated health. Findings suggest that older adults are more likely to underestimate their life satisfaction in the future, and that such underestimation was associated with positive health outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Frieder R. Lang & David Weiss & Denis Gerstorf & Gert G. Wagner, 2012. "Forecasting Life Satisfaction across Adulthood: Benefits of Seeing a Dark Future?," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 502, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp502
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    File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.411490.de/diw_sp0502.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Richard E. Lucas & Andrew Clark & Yannis Georgellis & Ed Diener, 2002. "Re-Examining Adaptation and the Setpoint Model of Happiness: Reactions to Changes in Marital Status," DELTA Working Papers 2002-08, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
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    Keywords

    Subjective well-being; future anticipation; optimism; aging; health; mortality; disability; SOEP;

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