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 United Kingdom, and the United States, we examined how long this period lasts. In all 3 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 3 and 5 years prior to death, after which normative rates of decline steepened by a factor of 3 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.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Geriatrics and Gerontology