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 journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

150 Citations (Scopus)

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. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-85
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology and Aging
Volume25
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010

Keywords

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Quality of Life
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Young Adult
  • Comparative Study
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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