Anticipating one's future self is a unique human capacity that contributes importantly to adaptation and health throughout adulthood and old age. Using the adult life span sample of the national German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP; N > 10,000, age range 18 to 96 years), we investigated age-differential stability, correlates, and outcomes of accuracy in anticipation of future life satisfaction across 6 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.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Geriatrics and Gerontology