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A Web-Based Survey of Daily Experienced Well-Being in Older Couples

a PSC Research Project

Investigators:   Jacqui Smith, Richard D. Gonzalez, Mary Beth Ofstedal, Lindsay H. Ryan

As policy makers search for indices to complement existing population-based economic markers, there is new interest in survey measures of wellbeing that capture how people think and feel about their life circumstances. Kahneman and colleagues (2004), for example, developed a Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) that integrates the assessment of affective experience with a detailed time diary of yesterday?s activities. The DRM provides on-line information about experience that is distinct from global reports of wellbeing. Several research teams, including ours (ROBUST: RC1 AG035576-02) have independently developed and tested short CATI/CAPI survey measures of experienced wellbeing suitable for large representative surveys of older adults such as the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). The 2012-2016 HRS renewal, however, posed new challenges to adapt this measure for the web mode and to consider the implications of data dependencies within couples. HRS interviews both partners in older households. To date, studies of experienced wellbeing have only interviewed individuals. The goals of this project are threefold. They address important methodological and conceptual issues about mode and couple effects in the measurement of global and experienced wellbeing. First, we utilize available HRS data collected between 2008 and 2011 to examine the comparability of responses about global wellbeing obtained from both partners in older couples across three modes (telephone, in-person, web). This constellation of HRS data provides a unique opportunity for comparative between-group and within-person (couple) mode analyses in subsamples representative of the population over age 50. Second, we conduct a randomized experiment with a locally recruited sample of older couples to explore mode and couple effects in experienced wellbeing. This study will use the new short measure of experienced wellbeing to be included in future waves of HRS. Because age, gender, race, education, health, and cognitive decline after age 50 could interact with mode and type of wellbeing measure, we will examine these factors in our analyses of the secondary data and the experiment. Third, in a pilot 7-day diary study, we explore differential partner and couple participation across days, the effects of repeated measurement, and also obtain preliminary data about the day-to-day dynamics of partner influences on experienced wellbeing. A web-based measure of experienced wellbeing could be a valuable resource for intermittent modules in large longitudinal panels to study the adaption processes that occur in older couples following loss of employment, retirement from paid work, health challenges or adaptation to disability. Our exploratory study will provide preliminary information about the feasibility of such future endeavors. The information obtained will advance assessment of wellbeing in large surveys of older adults and our understanding of life quality in late life.

Funding Period: 09/30/2012 to 08/31/2014

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