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Next Brown Bag

Monday, Dec 1
Linda Waite

Experienced-based and Subjective Well-being Survey Toolkits for Older Adults

a PSC Research Project

Investigators:   Jacqui Smith, Richard D. Gonzalez, Lindsay H. Ryan, David Weir

This application addresses the broad Challenge Area (04) Clinical Research and the NIA specific Challenge Topic 04-AG-105: Development of experience-based measures of well-being. There is an interdisciplinary resurgence of interest in the correlates and consequences of subjective and objective well-being in old age. In part, this interest is fueled by new evidence about mind-body interactions, including associations between affective well-being, immune functioning, cardiovascular illness, and longevity. Few longitudinal national studies of the older population include well-being measures in their protocols. This reflects a longstanding debate within and between disciplines about the validity and comparability of subjective versus objective scales and the lack of standard survey measures. Thus, the current challenge is to develop a valid and reliable instrument to assess experienced well-being in older adults. Ideally this instrument could be included in a survey toolkit of subjective and objective measures so that future researchers from different disciplines can begin to address knowledge gaps about well-being and health. Our approach to this challenge involves several innovative steps. In particular, we: 1) create a new survey measure of experience-based well-being for older adults to address the limitations of existing measures and link the new measure to health-related activities; 2) undertake extensive psychometric analyses of existing HRS data on cognitive and affective subjective well-being to provide a benchmark to assess the added-value of the new measure and to derive optimized subjective scales to add to a comprehensive survey toolkit; 3) collect data on our new measures of objective and subjective well-being in two studies with older adults (telephone and in-person: N = 960); 4) evaluate the reliability and validity of the new instruments using data obtained in the two studies and determine their unique potential to differentiate subgroups with different levels of health; and 5) conduct pilot work on an innovative survey measure of observed (behavioral) well-being. Together these new studies and analyses will provide answers to the following questions: Does our innovative survey measure of experienced well-being provide reliable and valid information? Is it possible to optimize the current HRS measures of cognitive and affective subjective well-being without compromising reliability and validity? Are objective and subjective components of well-being sensitive to socio-demographic factors and health disparities? What are the associations among objective and subjective components of well-being in old age? The outcome of the proposed project will be an innovative, well-documented, and validated toolkit for the assessment of objective and subjective well-being in large surveys of older adults. The application of this toolkit, especially in multidisciplinary longitudinal surveys, will increase our understanding of the relative importance of the experience-based, cognitive, and affective components of well-being for health in old age and contribute valuable evidence to effectively shape public policy and intervention strategies.

Funding Period: 09/30/2009 to 08/31/2012

Country of Focus: USA

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