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Self-Perceptions of Aging Predict Mortality and Change With Approaching Death: 16-Year Longitudinal Results From the Berlin Aging Study

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Kotter-Gruhn, D., A. Kleinspehn-Ammerlahn, D. Gerstorf, and Jacqui Smith. 2009. "Self-Perceptions of Aging Predict Mortality and Change With Approaching Death: 16-Year Longitudinal Results From the Berlin Aging Study." Psychology and Aging, 24(3): 654-667.

Satisfaction with one's own aging and feeling young are indicators of positive well-being in late life. Using 16-year longitudinal data from participants of the Berlin Aging Study (P. B. Baltes & K. U. Mayer, 1999; N = 439; 70- to 100-year-olds), the authors examined whether and how these self-perceptions of aging change with age and how such changes relate to distance from death. Extending previous studies, they found that it is not only higher aging satisfaction and younger subjective age but also more favorable change patterns (e.g., less decline in aging satisfaction) that are uniquely associated with lower mortality hazards. These effects are robust after controls for objective measures such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, diagnosis of dementia, or number of illnesses. As individuals approach death, they become less satisfied with their aging and report feeling older. For aging satisfaction, mortality-related decline is much steeper than age-related decline, whereas change in subjective age is best characterized as an age-related process. The authors discuss how self-perceptions of aging are embedded in mechanisms underlying pathways of dying late in life.

DOI:10.1037/a0016510 (Full Text)

Country of focus: Germany.

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