Subjective well-being as a function of age and gender: A multivariate look for differentiated trends

Dov Shmotkin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies on subjective well-being (SWB) suggest that its cognitive aspect, or life satisfaction, is positively correlated with age, whereas its affective aspect, often separated into positive affect (PA) and negative affect (NA), is negatively correlated with age. Gender differences in SWB are usually small. The present study attempted to explore these trends in an Israeli sample of 447 community-dwelling people aged 21 to 87, with special reference to relatively unattended issues as the effect of control variables on the affective aspect and the feasible age by gender interaction in SWB. The results showed that Cantril's Self-Anchoring Scale (SAS), Bradburn's Affect Balance Scale (ABS), and Neugarten et al.'s Life Satisfaction Index A (LSIA) were all significantly and negatively correlated with age. No significant gender differences emerged, but a significant age by gender interaction was found in SAS and LSIA. Controlling for personal variables (education, health, place of birth, and marital status) could wipe out the age effects on SAS and LSIA, but not on ABS. By the same procedure, the age by gender interaction could be wiped out in SAS, and substantially reduced in LSIA. The age effect on ABS was mainly due to PA, rather than NA. The results indicate the differential impact of personal variables on the aspects of SWB. Refering to the Israeli context, it seems that both cohort- and aging-related variables account for the decline of life satisfaction in the older subjects. Age-associated decline of affect is apparently connected to some other adaptive mechanisms, which regulate both positive and negative affect in old age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-230
Number of pages30
JournalSocial Indicators Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1990


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