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Titel: Personality Determinants of Subjective Well-Being in Old Age: Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Analyses
Autor(en): Halisch, Frank
Geppert, Ulrich
Erscheinungsdatum: 2012
Zusammenfassung: Theories of aging consider subjective well-being (SWB) as a global indicator of sane psy-chological adjustment to life tasks and for successful aging. The present study is concerned with (a) SWB, (b) various personality variables, and (c) the influence these personality deter-minants have on SWB in old age. Participants were 259 females and 134 males ranging from 63 to 84 years at the first measurement wave. The sample was subdivided into three age co-horts: 63 to 68 (n=139), 69 to 72 (n=133), and 73 to 84 years (n=121). 325 participants were re-interviewed almost 5 years later. SWB is usually conceived of having a cognitive as well as an affective component, both of which were assessed. Personality variables included personal agency (self-efficacy, exter-nality, hopelessness), motive dispositions (achievement, power, affiliation), coping strategies (accommodative flexibility, assimilative persistence), goal variables (goal commitment, goal attainability, goal probability), and subjective health perception. Results confirmed findings of SWB research, according to which SWB is at a rather high level even in old age. Males indicated greater life-satisfaction and more positive affective well-being than females. The predictor variables formed a coherent pattern of 4 factors: (1) Assertiveness (persistence, achievement and power motives), (2) goals (commitment, attaina-bility, probability, (3) flexibility, subjective health, (low) hopelessness, (low) externality, and (4) affiliation motive. Self-efficacy had equal substantial loadings on both the assertiveness and flexibility factor. This means that individuals with a strong sense of efficacy have both assimilative and accommodative coping strategies at their disposal. The association of subjec-tive health with flexibility shows that individuals who are capable of adjusting their aspira-tions to age-related constraints feel less impaired by health restrictions. Gender differences relate to higher personal agency (self-efficacy, low hopelessness, low externality) and higher assertiveness (persistence, achievement, power) of males. However, there were no gender differences concerning accommodative flexibility and subjective health, and males and fe-males were equally highly committed to their goals. There were distinct age-related changes: Personal agency, assertiveness and goal probability decreased but the decline only began in the middle age cohort and was mostly pronounced in the oldest cohort (age 78 upwards). The phase after entry into retirement was characterized by a rather high stability of personality whereas a terminal decline occurred only in the oldest age. These results support the differen-tiation between a "third" and "fourth" age. Generally, goal commitment increased and subjec-tive health decreased during the interval between the two measurement points. Regression analyses on the impact of the predictor variables on SWB revealed (low) hope-lessness as being the main predictor of both life satisfaction and affect. Beyond that cognitive and affective well-being was influenced by different predictors. Self-efficacy and flexibility had the highest impact on life satisfaction, especially in the youngest age cohort. However, in the oldest cohort the most influential predictor of life satisfaction was the success probability of attaining personal goals. Affective well-being, in contrast, was mainly influenced by sub-jective health perception in all cohorts. Longitudinal analyses revealed that during the 5 year interval our participants' life satis-faction increased, whereas affective well-being decreased. These differing developmental trends could be explained by different predictor variables. Again, feelings of hopelessness had a detrimental effect on both changes in cognitive as well as in affective well-being. Beyond that, the increase in life satisfaction was mainly due to the ability to flexibly adjust one's own aspirations to reduced resources and therefore strive for achievable goals. The decrease in affect, in contrast, was primarily caused by poor subjective health.
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