Terminal Decline in Well-Being: The Role of Multi-Indicator Constellations of Physical Health and Psychosocial Correlates

56 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2018

See all articles by Andreas M. Brandmaier

Andreas M. Brandmaier

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Human Development

Nilam Ram

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin); Pennsylvania State University

Gert G. Wagner

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

Denis Gerstorf

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin); Humboldt University of Berlin

Date Written: June 15, 2017

Abstract

Well-being is often relatively stable across adulthood and old age, but typically exhibits pronounced deteriorations and vast individual differences in the terminal phase of life. However, the factors contributing to these differences are not well understood. Using up to 25-year annual longitudinal data obtained from 4,404 now-deceased participants of the nationwide German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP; age at death: M = 73.2 years; SD = 14.3 years; 52% women), we explored the role of multi-indicator constellations of socio-demographic variables, physical health and burden factors, and psychosocial characteristics. Expanding earlier reports, Structural Equation Model Trees (SEM Trees) allowed us to identify profiles of variables that were associated with differences in the shape of late-life well-being trajectories. Physical health factors were found to play a major role for well-being decline, but in interaction with psychosocial characteristics such as social participation. To illustrate, for people with low social participation, disability emerged as the strongest correlate of differences in late-life well-being trajectories. However, for people with high social participation, whether or not an individual had spent considerable time in the hospital differentiated high vs. low and stable vs. declining late-life well-being. We corroborated these results with Variable Importance measures derived from a set of resampled SEM Trees (so-called SEM forests) that provide robust and comparative indicators of the total interactive effects of variables for differential late-life well-being. We discuss benefits and limitations of our approach and consider our findings in the context of other reports about protective factors against terminal decline in well-being.

Keywords: Successful Aging; Life Satisfaction; SEM Forest; SEM Tree; German Socio-Economic Panel Study

Suggested Citation

Brandmaier, Andreas M. and Ram, Nilam and Wagner, Gert G. and Gerstorf, Denis, Terminal Decline in Well-Being: The Role of Multi-Indicator Constellations of Physical Health and Psychosocial Correlates (June 15, 2017). SOEP paper No. 912, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3110757 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3110757

Andreas M. Brandmaier (Contact Author)

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Human Development ( email )

Lentzeallee 94
Berlin, D-14195
Germany

Nilam Ram

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

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Berlin, 10117
Germany

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

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State College, PA 16802
United States

Gert G. Wagner

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

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Berlin, 10117
Germany
+49 30 8 978 9290 (Phone)
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HOME PAGE: http://www.diw.de/programme/jsp/MA.jsp?language=en&uid=gwagner

Berlin University of Technology ( email )

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

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

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

Denis Gerstorf

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

Mohrenstraße 58
Berlin, 10117
Germany

Humboldt University of Berlin ( email )

Unter den Linden 6
Berlin, AK Berlin 10099
Germany

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