Forecasting Life Satisfaction Across Adulthood: Benefits of Seeing a Dark Future?

47 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2012

See all articles by Frieder R. Lang

Frieder R. Lang

affiliation not provided to SSRN

David Weiss

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Denis Gerstorf

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Human Development and Family Studies

Gert G. Wagner

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin); Berlin University of Technology; German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP)

Date Written: October 1, 2012

Abstract

Anticipating one’s future self is a unique human capacity that contributes importantly to adaptation and health throughout adulthood and old age. Using the adult lifespan sample of the national German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP; N > 10,000, age range 18-96 years), we investigated age-differential stability, correlates, and outcomes of accuracy in anticipation of future life satisfaction across six subsequent 5-year time intervals. As expected, we observed few age differences in current life satisfaction, but stronger age differences in future expectations: Younger adults anticipated improved future life satisfaction, overestimating their actual life satisfaction 5 years later. By contrast, older adults were more pessimistic about the future, generally underestimating their actual life satisfaction after 5 years. Such age differences persisted above and beyond the effects of self-rated health and income. Survival analyses revealed that in later adulthood, underestimating one’s life satisfaction 5 years later was related to lower hazard ratios for disability (n = 735 became disabled) and mortality (n = 879 died) across 10 or more years, even after controlling for age, sex, education, income, and self-rated health. Findings suggest that older adults are more likely to underestimate their life satisfaction in the future, and that such underestimation was associated with positive health outcomes.

Keywords: subjective well-being, future anticipation, optimism, aging, health, mortality, disability, SOEP

Suggested Citation

Lang, Frieder R. and Weiss, David and Gerstorf, Denis and Wagner, Gert G., Forecasting Life Satisfaction Across Adulthood: Benefits of Seeing a Dark Future? (October 1, 2012). SOEPpaper 502, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2166785 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2166785

Frieder R. Lang

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

David Weiss

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Denis Gerstorf (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Human Development and Family Studies ( email )

United States
+1-814-867-2131 (Phone)
+1-814-863-9423 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.hhdev.psu.edu/hdfs/directory/bio.aspx?id=126

Gert G. Wagner

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) ( email )

Mohrenstraße 58
Berlin, 10117
Germany
+49 30 8 978 9290 (Phone)
+49 30 8 978 9200 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.diw.de/programme/jsp/MA.jsp?language=en&uid=gwagner

Berlin University of Technology ( email )

Straße des 17
Berlin, 10623
Germany
+30 8 978 9283 (Phone)

German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) ( email )

DIW Berlin
10108 Berlin, Berlin
Germany
+49 30 8978 9290 (Phone)
+49 30 8978 9109 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.diw/en/soep

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