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Wellbeing in older age

What social contexts and experiences in childhood and early adulthood promote wellbeing in later life? And does wellbeing protect against functional ageing?  


Research programme: Wellbeing in older age (2013-)

Programme leader: Dr Mai Stafford

MRC Studentship: Rebecca Wilson

Other LHA scientists: Dr Rachel Cooper (Programme Leader Track),  Professor Rebecca Hardy, Professor Diana KuhProfessor Marcus Richards

External collaborators:
For collaborators on this programme please click here

Healthy ageing requires good objective function physically, cognitively, and socially and having a positive state of mind. This programme aims to determine what factors from childhood, adolescence and throughout adulthood, promote positive psychological wellbeing and social integration in older age. Since 2010, UK Government has been committed to monitoring and understanding national wellbeing and this new programme brings a life course perspective to help improve our knowledge of how social, economic and health domains across life may act together to influence psychological and socia wellbeing in later life.

In the first five years of this programme, the focus will be on:

  • social integration (i.e. the degree to which an individual is interrelated with others in society, measured by ties with family and  friends, participation in clubs and organisations, social support) and loneliness. 
  • mastery (i.e. a person’s perception of their ability to manage their life circumstances)
  • purpose in life (i.e. having goals for one’s life and feeling that life has purpose, involving a process of reflecting back over experiences and accomplishments so far)
  • global wellbeing

We have selected these dimensions because we want to explore the experiences and events over a life time that may influence psychological and social growth and adaptation.

Main objectives

The key aims of this new programme are to:

  • describe wellbeing among older people and how this is shaped by the childhood and adult social context and experiences;
  • assess the bi-directional links between wellbeing and biological ageing and identify what distinguishes people who maintain high wellbeing despite health or other challenges.

This will be achieved through several projects which investigate:

  • continuity of social integration across the life course
  • prospective associations between social and psychological wellbeing and functional ageing, including underlying biological pathways
  • lifetime individual and contextual factors that promote psychological and social wellbeing and adaptation in later life
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