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Satisfaction with life goes up with age in some nations

By Joan Firstenberg     Nov 9, 2014 in Health
Seniors, above the age of 65, who live in English-speaking countries report the most satisfaction with their lives. But those in other countries around the world grow increasingly less satisfied as they age.
Researchers studying life satisfaction rates among aging populations in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand found they were consistently high. That's in stark contrast to other regions of the world, like Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa where those levels decrease among all of the population as they age.
The study is published in The Lancet . It was also reported by Senior Journal. Researchers from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Stony Brook University and University College London worked on it.
In Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, older people showed very low levels of life and emotional satisfaction. This was the same in Latin America and the Caribbean, although life satisfaction did not drop as sharply as in Eastern Europe. And in sub-Saharan Africa, life satisfaction showed to be very low among all people at every age.
The studies' co-author Angus Deaton, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Wilson School explains some of the differences....
"What is interesting is that... 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."
The report also shows a link between an elderly person's physical health and their well-being, as poorer health resulted in lower ratings of life satisfaction, but higher life satisfaction appeared to hold in abeyance most declines in physical health.
Professor Deaton also observes....
"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."
For the study, the researchers examined several aspects of well-being: evaluative well-being, an evaluation of their positive outlook, related to feelings or moods like happiness, sadness and anger; and their negative well-being, relating to the judgments they held about the meaning and purpose of their lives.
In order to measure levels of satisfaction, participants were asked to think of a ladder that had steps from zero at the bottom (the worst possible life) to 10 at the top (the best possible life). The researchers found that older people in high-income, English-speaking countries experienced less stress, worry and anger and more happiness than those in the other countries .
Gender differences between men and women in each region were overall very slight. However, elderly women in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe experienced a great deal more worry, stress and pain than elderly male counterparts, even though men's health in these countries was worse.
To determine survival rates among the elderly, the research team compared information that they had on each person's purpose in life. The results were that when elderly people felt they have a purpose, their survival rates went up. Overall, the findings were that in the highest life-satisfaction countries, the death rate was 9.3 percent, while in the lowest life-satisfaction groupings it was 29.3 percent.
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