Late-Life Decline in Well-Being Across Adulthood in Germany, the UK, and the US: Something is Seriously Wrong at the End of Life

27 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2010

See all articles by Denis Gerstorf

Denis Gerstorf

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin); Humboldt University of Berlin

Nilam Ram

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Guy Mayraz

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Mira Hidajat

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Ulman Lindenberger

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Gert G. Wagner

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

Jürgen Schupp

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

Date Written: April 2010

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.

Keywords: Selective mortality, successful aging, differential aging, psychosocial factors, well-being, multiphase growth model

Suggested Citation

Gerstorf, Denis and Ram, Nilam and Mayraz, Guy and Hidajat, Mira and Lindenberger, Ulman and Wagner, Gert G. and Schupp, Juergen, Late-Life Decline in Well-Being Across Adulthood in Germany, the UK, and the US: Something is Seriously Wrong at the End of Life (April 2010). SOEPpaper No. 286. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1588723 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1588723

Denis Gerstorf (Contact Author)

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

Mohrenstraße 58
Berlin, 10117
Germany

Humboldt University of Berlin ( email )

Unter den Linden 6
Berlin, AK Berlin 10099
Germany

Nilam Ram

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Guy Mayraz

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Mira Hidajat

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Ulman Lindenberger

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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

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

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