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Learning and Wellbeing Trajectories Among Older Adults in England


  • Andrew Jenkins

    (Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education, University of London)

  • Tarek Mostafa

    (Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of Education, University of London)


In an ageing society such as the UK, there is much interest in factors which can contribute to the wellbeing of older adults. It is not implausible to suppose that participation in learning could have beneficial effects, yet research on the wider benefits of learning has tended to focus on young people or those in mid-life and there is currently little evidence on the impact of learning on the wellbeing of older adults. Insofar as evidence does exist, most of it is qualitative, and while of much value and interest, it is based on very small, and possibly not very representative, samples of the older population. This research aimed to provide new, quantitative evidence drawing on a large, nationally representative sample, on the effects of participation in learning on the wellbeing of older adults. Our study used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a continuing, longitudinal survey of older adults which is representative of people aged 50 years and above living in private households in England. To measure wellbeing we used the CASP-19 instrument, a subjective wellbeing measure which was designed specifically for older adults and is available at all waves of the ELSA survey. ELSA respondents were asked about four types of learning activity: obtaining qualifications; attendance at formal education/training courses; membership of education, music or arts groups or evening classes; membership of sports clubs, gym and exercise classes. A range of regression techniques were used to analyse the relationship between learning and wellbeing. Multiple regression models were applied to data from ELSA wave 4. To take account of unobservable factors which might influence wellbeing we applied multiple regression to the change score between two waves of the survey and fitted fixed effects panel regressions to four waves of ELSA data. Learning was associated with higher wellbeing after controlling for a range of other factors. We found strong evidence that more informal types of learning were associated with higher wellbeing. There was also some evidence that obtaining qualifications was linked to higher wellbeing but no evidence that formal education/training courses were associated with higher wellbeing.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Jenkins & Tarek Mostafa, 2013. "Learning and Wellbeing Trajectories Among Older Adults in England," DoQSS Working Papers 13-02, Quantitative Social Science - UCL Social Research Institute, University College London.
  • Handle: RePEc:qss:dqsswp:1302

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    Cited by:

    1. Hilary Ingham & Mike Ingham & José Adelino Afonso, 2017. "Participation in lifelong learning in Portugal and the UK," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(3), pages 266-289, May.
    2. Stanisława Golinowska & Agnieszka Sowa & Dorly Deeg & Marco Socci & Andrea Principi & Ricardo Rodrigues & Stefania Ilinca & Henrike Galenkamp, 2016. "Participation in formal learning activities of older Europeans in poor and good health," European Journal of Ageing, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 115-127, June.

    More about this item


    : Older adults; lifelong learning; wellbeing; benefits of learning; ELSA.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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