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Predicting one's own death: the relationship between subjective and objective nearness to death in very old age

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Kotter-Gruhn, D., D. Gruhn, and Jacqui Smith. 2010. "Predicting one's own death: the relationship between subjective and objective nearness to death in very old age." European Journal of Ageing, 7(4): 293-300.

Previous research found that the perception of a limited remaining lifetime is related to goal setting, social network composition, attitudes, and behavior. However, to better understand those findings, it is important to know if this subjective perception of being close to death corresponds with the time a person actually survives. The aim of the present study was to examine the predictive and time-dynamic relationship between subjective and objective nearness to death using 16-year longitudinal data from the Berlin Aging Study (Baltes and Mayer 1999; N = 516 older adults between 70 and 104 years). Older adults who felt close to death at the first measurement occasion were more likely to die over the following 16 years than persons who did not report feeling close to dying. Results of multilevel analyses revealed that there was a time-dynamic relationship such that subjective nearness to death increased as a function of objective nearness to death. Our results indicate that very old adults seem to have quite accurate perceptions of their nearness to death.

DOI:10.1007/s10433-010-0165-1 (Full Text)

Country of focus: Germany.

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