Perceived personal control buffers terminal decline in well-being

Denis Gerstorf, Jutta Heckhausen, Nilam Ram, Frank J. Infurna, Jürgen Schupp, Gert G. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent research has repeatedly demonstrated that well-being typically evinces precipitous deterioration close to the end of life. However, the determinants of individual differences in these terminal declines are not well understood. In this study, we examine the role of perceived personal control as a potential buffer against steep terminal declines in well-being. We applied single- and multiphase growth models to up to 25-year longitudinal data from 1,641 now-deceased participants of the national German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP; age at death: M = 74 years; SD = 14; 49% women). Results revealed that perceiving more personal control over one's life was related to subsequently higher late-life well-being, less severe rates of late-life declines, and a later onset of terminal decline. Associations were independent of key predictors of mortality, including age, gender, SES, and disability. These findings suggest that feeling in control may ameliorate steep end-of-life decline in well-being. We also discuss scenarios for when and how processes of goal disengagement and giving up control may become beneficial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)612-625
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology and aging
Volume29
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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    Gerstorf, D., Heckhausen, J., Ram, N., Infurna, F. J., Schupp, J., & Wagner, G. G. (2014). Perceived personal control buffers terminal decline in well-being. Psychology and aging, 29(3), 612-625. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037227