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Forecasting life satisfaction across adulthood: Benefits of seeing a dark future?


Lang, Frieder R; Weiss, David; Gerstorf, Denis; Wagner, Gert G (2013). Forecasting life satisfaction across adulthood: Benefits of seeing a dark future? Psychology and Aging, 28(1):249-261.

Abstract

Anticipating one's future self is a unique human capacity that contributes importantly to adaptation and health throughout adulthood and old age. Using the adult life span sample of the national German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP; N > 10,000, age range 18 to 96 years), we investigated age-differential stability, correlates, and outcomes of accuracy in anticipation of future life satisfaction across 6 subsequent 5-year time intervals. As expected, we observed few age differences in current life satisfaction but stronger age differences in future expectations: Younger adults anticipated improved future life satisfaction, overestimating their actual life satisfaction 5 years later. By contrast, older adults were more pessimistic about the future, generally underestimating their actual life satisfaction after 5 years. Such age differences persisted above and beyond the effects of self-rated health and income. Survival analyses revealed that, in later adulthood, underestimating one's life satisfaction 5 years later was related to lower hazard ratios for disability (n = 735 became disabled) and mortality (n = 879 died) across 10 or more years, even after controlling for age, sex, education, income, and self-rated health. Findings suggest that older adults are more likely to underestimate their life satisfaction in the future and that such underestimation was associated with positive health outcomes.

Abstract

Anticipating one's future self is a unique human capacity that contributes importantly to adaptation and health throughout adulthood and old age. Using the adult life span sample of the national German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP; N > 10,000, age range 18 to 96 years), we investigated age-differential stability, correlates, and outcomes of accuracy in anticipation of future life satisfaction across 6 subsequent 5-year time intervals. As expected, we observed few age differences in current life satisfaction but stronger age differences in future expectations: Younger adults anticipated improved future life satisfaction, overestimating their actual life satisfaction 5 years later. By contrast, older adults were more pessimistic about the future, generally underestimating their actual life satisfaction after 5 years. Such age differences persisted above and beyond the effects of self-rated health and income. Survival analyses revealed that, in later adulthood, underestimating one's life satisfaction 5 years later was related to lower hazard ratios for disability (n = 735 became disabled) and mortality (n = 879 died) across 10 or more years, even after controlling for age, sex, education, income, and self-rated health. Findings suggest that older adults are more likely to underestimate their life satisfaction in the future and that such underestimation was associated with positive health outcomes.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:28 Jan 2014 12:39
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:52
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:0882-7974
Funders:Volkswagen Foundation grant to Frieder R. Lang and Gert G. Wagner (Az II/83 153)
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/a0030797

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