Is Age Identity Related To Physical Health And Life Satisfaction
This essay examines the issue of how age identity is related to physical health and life satisfaction. As life expectancy has increased, we would expect ideas about aging and old age to change. In addition, as individuals move through the life course they may reevaluate their notions of aging. We consider both personal views of aging and more general ideas about when old age begins. In general, age identity refers to the subjective evaluation of a person’s age, which is subject to individual and historical experiences. This evaluation is consistent with Goffman’s (1963, p. 105) concept of a person’s identity as ‘‘the subjective sense of his own situation and his own continuity and character that an individual comes to obtain as a result of his various social experiences.’’ This concept corresponds to George’s (1980) view of age identity as meaningful evaluations and perceptions of oneself.
Life satisfaction is one of the most popular subjective well-being measures of quality of life. Other measures include morale, happiness, and psychological well-being. A major problem with the subjective well-being research in gerontology has been the lack of consistency in defining, measuring and using these terms which has lead to conflicting findings (Mannell & Dupuis, 1996). It has been suggested that subjective well-being be reconceptualized as personal development and adjustment. For example, Ryff (1995) have developed a scale that reflects psychological health and well-being (e.g., self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth) based on major personality and life-span theories. This approach appears to be more in line with current views of wellness.
People often believe that happiness is a matter of circumstance that if something good happens, they will experience long-lasting happiness, or if something bad happens, they will experience long-term misery. But instead, people’s happiness results more from their underlying emotional resources – resources that appear to grow with age. People get better at managing life’s ups and downs, and the result is that as they age, they become happier – even though their objective circumstances, such as their health, decline. A study was conducted by Logan, Ward & Spitze, (1992) in which they reported that older persons showed less distress and more happiness and life satisfaction. Moreover they found that health had equally strong effects and chronological age is positively related to well-being even without including the control for health or age identification.
In this study, we seek to investigate age identity associated with well being; physical health, life satisfaction and life happiness. The research questions were derived after carefully reviewing the research on physical health, life satisfaction and life happiness. Furthermore, the present study integrates the theories on age identity with the strategies of physical health and life satisfaction, and examines which of these two aspects are a more important contributor in the persistence and life happiness in age identity.
Therefore, the aim of this study is to obtain whether physical health will be positively related to age identity such that participants who scored high on the physical health scale will obtain high scores on the age identity scale, and participants who scored low on the physical health will obtain low age identity scores on the age identity scale. In the hope of finding if life satisfaction will be positively associated with overall happiness, such that participants who scored high on the life satisfaction scale will obtain high scores on the happiness scale, and participants who scored low on the life satisfaction scale will obtain low scores on the happiness scale. And lastly it also aids to identify if physical health plays a more important role in age identity than life satisfaction, such that physical health accounts for a larger variability in age identity than life satisfaction.
Two hundred and twenty four participants (last year’s class= 65; this year’s class = 159) were recruited from a variety of sources. Participants’ age ranged from 18 to 40 years, 41-60 years and 61+ years (M = 47.04 years; SD = 18.31 years).
Participants were asked to complete a two-page survey on age, including three separate scales measuring chronological age, age identity and perceptions of age, as well as several demographic questions on gender, relationship status, employment status, amount of children or grandchildren, physical health, life satisfaction, overall happiness and education.
The first page consisted of 3 items physical health, life satisfaction and overall happiness. Using a 7-point likert scale (1= very poor; 7= very good), physical health asked participants to indicate their extent of agreement with the statement related to their health, such as “How is your physical health at present”. Using a 7-point likert scale (1= very unsatisfied; 7= very satisfied), life satisfaction asked participants to indicate their extend of agreement with the statement related to their life, such as “please rate your satisfaction with life as whole”. Lastly, on a 7-point likert scale (1= very unhappy; 7= very happy) overall happiness asked participants to indicate their extend of agreement with the statement related to their happiness, such as “How happy are you all things considered”. At the end of the first page of the survey, participants were to respond to “How old do you feel”.
All participants were approached by experimenters asking them to fill out a survey. They were told that participation was voluntary, and that responses would be kept anonymous and confidential. After completion, responses were collected and participants were debriefed.
Table 1 illustrates the descriptive statistics of the passionate love, self-disclosure and commitment measures.
Means and standard deviations of scales assessing degree of well-being in different age categories.
Questionnaire/Scale Mean Standard Deviation
18 to 40 2.33 .36
41 to 60 2.37 .41
61 plus 2.36 3.87
A standard multiple regression was conducted to determine the amount of variance in age identity that can be predicted by the variables of physical health and life satisfaction. As shown in Table 2, zero-order correlations revealed that high scorers on physical health were significantly correlated with high levels of satisfaction with life, r (224) = .43, p < .001. Moreover, the correlation between physical health and life happiness were significant r (224) = .40, p <.001. Finally, the life satisfaction and life happiness scales were also significantly inter-correlated r (224) = .86, p = <.001. Table 2 Bivariate correlation matrix of scores on scales assessing physical health, satisfaction with life and life happiness. 2 3 1. Physical health .43* .40* 2. Satisfaction with life .86* 3. Life happiness *** p < .001 Discussion The aim of study was to integrate the theories on age identity with the well being strategies of physical health, life satisfaction and life happiness, and examines which of these three aspects is a more important contributor in age identity. The overall pattern of results suggests this relationship is qualified by results that revealed that the first hypothesis was well supported; physical health will be positively related to age identity such that participants who scored high on the physical health scale will obtain high scores on the age identity scale, and participants who scored low on the physical health will obtain low age identity scores on the age identity scale. This was in tune with studies done by George, Mutran, & Pennypacker (1980). Finally the last hypothesis was supported whereby physical health plays a more important role in age identity than life satisfaction, such that physical health accounts for a larger variability in age identity than life satisfaction which was in tune with studies done by Ryff, (1995). The limitations of this study are some of the questionnaires might have been faked and not done by the actual participants hence not providing with good results, sample size might have been too much and it would have been difficult in getting the older people to do the questionnaires. Due to this, some of the questionnaires might have been done by people who did not meet the age requirements. In conclusion, this study has shown that age identity is related to physical health and life satisfaction. Life satisfaction does give an overall happiness in older people.