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Change in Life Satisfaction During Adulthood: Findings From the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study Daniel K. Mroczek Fordham University Avron Spiro III Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System and Boston University School of Public Health Change in life satisfaction was modeled over a 22-year period in 1,927 men. A curvilinear relationship emerged. Growth-curve models indicated that life satisfaction peaked at age 65 and then declined, but showed significant individual differences in rate of change. Extraversion predicted variability in change, with higher levels associated with a high and flat life satisfaction trajectory. Time-varying physical health and marital status were associated with higher life satisfaction. Proximity to death was associated with a decline in life satisfaction. On measurement occasions that were within 1 year before death, trajectories showed steeper decline, and this effect was not attributable to declines in self-rated physical health. The findings are at odds with prior (cross-sectional) research showing that subjective well-being improves with aging. Does psychological well-being change with age? Recent reports indicate that various aspects of well-being may change as we grow older (Carstensen, Isaacowitz, & Charles, 1999; Fingerman, 2002; Mroczek, 2001). For example, negative affect, an important com- ponent of well-being, clearly decreases as people age, a finding that has been documented longitudinally (Charles, Reynolds & Gatz, 2001) and cross-sectionally (Carstensen, Pasupathi, Mayr, & Nesselroade, 2000; Mroczek & Almeida, 2004; Mroczek & Ko- larz, 1998). Most investigations of change in well-being have focused on positive and negative affect. Yet little is known about age-related changes in another major element of well-being, life satisfaction. In this study, we attempted to remedy this disparity by using individual growth-curve modeling to examine change in life sat- isfaction in a sample of more than 1,900 men for a period of over 22 years. We estimated the overall trajectory of life satisfaction as well as individual differences in the parameters that define this trajectory (e.g., slopes, intercepts). In addition, we attempted to account for such variability in trajectories by using personality traits, health, and marital status. Extraversion and neuroticism are powerful predictors of absolute level of life satisfaction (Costa & McCrae, 1980; Emmons & Diener, 1985), but are they also influ- ential predictors of rate of change in life satisfaction? Similarly, health and marriage have been associated with level of, but also change in, life satisfaction (Easterlin, 2003; Lucas, Clark, Georgel- lis, & Diener, 2003). Does life satisfaction change in older age? Are there individual differences in change trajectories? If so, what variables are associated with differences in trajectories? These questions guided our study.
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This note was uploaded on 12/02/2010 for the course PSYCH PSY BEH P2 taught by Professor Susanturkcharles during the Fall '10 term at UC Irvine.

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