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Psychol Aging. 1989 Jun;4(2):195-201.

In the eye of the beholder: views of psychological well-being among middle-aged and older adults.

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  • 1University of Wisconsin.


Although the topic of psychological well-being has generated considerable research, few studies have investigated how adults themselves define positive functioning. To probe their conceptions of well-being, interviews were conducted with a community sample of 171 middle-aged (M = 52.5 years, SD = 8.7) and older (M = 73.5 years, SD = 6.1) men and women. Questions pertained to general life evaluations, past life experiences, conceptions of well-being, and views of the aging process. Responses indicated that both age groups and sexes emphasized an "others orientation" (being a caring, compassionate person, and having good relationships) in defining well-being. Middle-aged respondents stressed self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-knowledge, whereas older persons cited accepting change as an important quality of positive functioning. In addition to attention to positive relations with others as an index of well-being, lay views pointed to a sense of humor, enjoying life, and accepting change as criteria of successful aging.

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