Late-life decline in well-being across adulthood in germany, the united kingdom, and the united states: Something is seriously wrong at the end of life

Denis Gerstorf, Nilam Ram, Guy Mayraz, Mira Hidajat, Ulman Lindenberger, Gert G. Wagner, Jürgen Schupp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations

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 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-485
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology and aging
Volume25
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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