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Does ageing alter the contribution of health to subjective well-being?

Abstract : Older adults regularly report rising levels of Subjective Well-Being (SWB) over time, despite a concomitant decline in their health. One possible explanation is that individuals develop psychological mechanisms to diminish the contribution of health to their well-being as they get older. This research examines whether observational data are consistent with this hypothesis of hedonic adaptation to health decline with ageing, in all aspects of SWB, and for different births cohorts over time. Using longitudinal data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) between 2007 and 2015 in 10 European countries for respondents aged 50 onwards (4 waves, 41,258 individuals), we estimated panel fixed-effects models for outcomes measuring the three aspects of SWB: evaluative (life satisfaction), experienced (positive and negative affectivity) and eudemonic well-being (sense of purpose and meaning in life). We decomposed age in birth cohort and time fixed effects. Changes over time in the contribution of health to SWB were estimated by interaction terms between health and time fixed effects. Results showed that the value of health changes over time and for different birth cohorts in ways that depend on the measure of SWB. Ageing increases the importance of health for both eudemonic and experienced well-being. By contrast, the association between health and life satisfaction weakens with age, except for individuals aged 80 and above for which it strengthens. Our results thus offer only little support for hedonic adaptation to health decline with age, restricted to life satisfaction and individuals under 80 years of age. These findings caution against the use of mean estimations over the lifespan to determine the value of health as well as against the use of the various forms of SWB interchangeably in public policy analysis and economic evaluations of healthcare.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - 10:44:40 AM
Last modification on : Friday, January 14, 2022 - 3:41:06 AM

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Clémence Bussière, Nicolas Sirven, Philippe Tessier. Does ageing alter the contribution of health to subjective well-being?. Social science & medicine, Elsevier, 2021, 268, pp.113456. ⟨10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113456⟩. ⟨hal-03456624⟩

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