Between-Person Disparities in the Progression of Late-Life Well-Being

45 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2009

See all articles by Denis Gerstorf

Denis Gerstorf

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Human Development and Family Studies

Nilam Ram

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Elizabeth Fauth

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Jürgen Schupp

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin); Institute for Sociology, Freie Universität; The Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Gert G. Wagner

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin); Berlin University of Technology; German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP)

Date Written: June 2009

Abstract

Throughout adulthood and old age, levels of well-being appear to remain relatively stable. In this chapter, we argue that focusing on a phase of life during which this positive picture does not necessarily prevail promises to help us better understand between-person disparities in the progression of late-life well-being. In a first step, we review empirical evidence from the German Socio-Economic Panel and other large-scale longitudinal data sets to demonstrate that ubiquitous reports of a “stability-despite-loss phenomenon” of well-being do not generalize into years of life immediately preceding death. Instead, mean-level representations of the end of life are characterized by a rapid deterioration in well-being. In a second step, we highlight the vast heterogeneity in how people experience the last years and consider the role of biopsychosocial individual difference factors to account for such disparities. The select factors reviewed here include socio-demographic characteristics, cognitive fitness, pathology, and disability. In a third step, we argue that macro-contextual factors such as the social, service, and physical characteristics of the communities and societies people are living and dying in also profoundly shape the nature and progression of individual late-life well-being. Our conceptual reasoning forecasts some of the insights that can be gained by pursuing this line of research, but also underscores the challenges researchers must deal with.

Keywords: Late-Life Well-Being, SOEP, BHPS, HRS

JEL Classification: I12, I31, Y8

Suggested Citation

Gerstorf, Denis and Ram, Nilam and Fauth, Elizabeth and Schupp, Juergen and Wagner, Gert G., Between-Person Disparities in the Progression of Late-Life Well-Being (June 2009). SOEPpaper No. 200. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1422526 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1422526

Denis Gerstorf (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Human Development and Family Studies ( email )

United States
+1-814-867-2131 (Phone)
+1-814-863-9423 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.hhdev.psu.edu/hdfs/directory/bio.aspx?id=126

Nilam Ram

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Elizabeth Fauth

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Juergen Schupp

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) ( email )

Mohrenstraße 58
Berlin, D-10117
Germany
+49 30 8 978 9238 (Phone)
+49 30 8 978 9109 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.diw.de/deutsch/das_institut/mitarbeiter/innen/26652.html?uid=jschupp

Institute for Sociology, Freie Universität ( email )

Garystr. 55
I
Berlin, D-14195
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.polsoz.fu-berlin.de/soziologie/mitarbeiter/b_hochschullehrer/schupp.html

The Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.iza.org/index_html?lang=de&mainframe=http%3A//www.iza.org/de/webcontent/personnel/fellows

Gert G. Wagner

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) ( email )

Mohrenstraße 58
Berlin, 10117
Germany
+49 30 8 978 9290 (Phone)
+49 30 8 978 9200 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.diw.de/programme/jsp/MA.jsp?language=en&uid=gwagner

Berlin University of Technology ( email )

Straße des 17
Berlin, 10623
Germany
+30 8 978 9283 (Phone)

German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) ( email )

DIW Berlin
10108 Berlin, Berlin
Germany
+49 30 8978 9290 (Phone)
+49 30 8978 9109 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.diw/en/soep

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