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The role of subjective age in sustaining wellbeing and health in the second half of life

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Document pages: 21 pages

Abstract: Subjective age (SA) is a core indicator of the individual ageing experience, with important consequences for successful ageing. The aim of the current study was to investigate the directions of the longitudinal associations between domains of SA and subjective wellbeing and physical functioning in the second half of life. We used three-wave survey data (2002, 2007 and 2017) spanning 15 years from the Norwegian Lifecourse, Ageing and Generation Study, including 6,292 persons born between 1922 and 1961. SA was measured with felt-age and ideal-age discrepancies, wellbeing with the Satisfaction of Life Scale and physical functioning with the Short-Form 12. Three-wave cross-lagged panel models were applied to assess the temporal relationships between the different domains of SA, life satisfaction and physical functioning, adjusted for age, gender and education. Findings indicated that wanting to be younger was negatively associated with life satisfaction and physical functioning over time. Felt-age discrepancies did not predict subsequent wellbeing or physical functioning. The results did not reveal any evidence for reversed effects, i.e. from functioning or life satisfaction to SA. Our findings support the psychological pathway from satisfaction with age(ing) to subjective wellbeing and physical functioning over time. Small ideal-age discrepancies reflect positive self-perceptions of ageing, which may help to accumulate psychological resources, guide behavioural regulation and support health.

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