The Golden Years Don't Glitter for All
Life satisfaction in later years is highest in wealthy, English-speaking countries, study finds
THURSDAY, Nov. 6, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People in high-income English-speaking countries tend to grow more satisfied with their lives as they age, but that's not the case in many other nations, a new study finds.
Researchers analyzed data gathered from people around the world and found that life satisfaction tends to fall during middle age and rise in older age among people in the United States and other high-income English-speaking countries.
However, people in areas such as the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa become increasingly less satisfied as they age.
In Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, older people have much lower life satisfaction levels than younger people. The same thing happens in Latin America and Caribbean countries, but life satisfaction does not fall as sharply as in Eastern Europe, the study found.
In sub-Saharan Africa, life satisfaction is very low at all ages, according to the study published Nov. 6 in The Lancet as part of a special series on aging.
"Economic theory can predict a dip in well-being among the middle age in high-income, English-speaking countries," study co-author Angus Deaton, a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University, said in a university news release.
"What is interesting is that this pattern is not universal. Other regions, like the former Soviet Union, have been affected by the collapse of communism and other systems. Such events have affected the elderly who have lost a system that, however imperfect, gave meaning to their lives, and, in some cases, their pensions and health care," Deaton added.
The researchers also found that poorer health was associated with lower life satisfaction among elderly people, and that higher life satisfaction appeared to help prevent declines in physical health.
"Our findings suggest that health care systems should be concerned not only with illness and disability among the elderly but their psychological states as well," Deaton said.
The study was conducted by researchers from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Stony Brook University in New York and University College London.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers healthy aging tips for older adults.