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ERIC Number: EJ1065987
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Jul
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0012-1649
Historical Improvements in Well-Being Do Not Hold in Late Life: Birth- and Death-Year Cohorts in the United States and Germany
Hülür, Gizem; Ram, Nilam; Gerstorf, Denis
Developmental Psychology, v51 n7 p998-1012 Jul 2015
One key objective of life span research is to examine how individual development is shaped by the historical time people live in. Secular trends favoring later-born cohorts on fluid cognitive abilities have been widely documented, but findings are mixed for well-being. It remains an open question whether secular increases in well-being seen in earlier phases of life also manifest in the last years of life. To examine this possibility, we made use of longitudinal data obtained from the mid-1980s until the late 2000s in 2 large national samples in the United States (Health and Retirement Study [HRS]) and Germany (German Socio-Economic Panel [SOEP]). We operationally defined historical time from 2 complementary perspectives: "birth-year cohorts" based on the years in which people were born (earlier: 1930s vs. later: 1940s) and "death-year cohorts" based on the years in which people died (earlier: 1990s vs. later: 2000s). To control for relevant covariates, we used case-matched groups based on age (at death) and education and covaried for gender, health, and number of observations. Results from both countries revealed that well-being in old age was indeed developing at higher levels among later-born cohorts. However, for later-deceased cohorts, no evidence for secular increases in well-being was found. To the contrary, later-dying SOEP participants reported lower levels of well-being at age 75 and 2 years prior to death and experienced steeper late-life declines. Our results suggest that secular increases in well-being observed in old age do not manifest in late life, where "manufactured" survival may be exacerbating age- and mortality-related declines.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Institutes of Health (DHHS)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Germany; United States
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale
Grant or Contract Numbers: RC1 AG035645; R01 HD076994; R24 HD041025; UL TR000127; U01 AG09740