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Dev Psychol. 2008 Jul;44(4):1148-59. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.44.4.1148.

Life satisfaction shows terminal decline in old age: longitudinal evidence from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP).

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Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


Longitudinal data spanning 22 years, obtained from deceased participants of the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP; N = 1,637; 70- to 100-year-olds), were used to examine if and how life satisfaction exhibits terminal decline at the end of life. Changes in life satisfaction were more strongly associated with distance to death than with distance from birth (chronological age). Multiphase growth models were used to identify a transition point about 4 years prior to death where the prototypical rate of decline in life satisfaction tripled from -0.64 to -1.94 T-score units per year. Further individual-level analyses suggest that individuals dying at older ages spend more years in the terminal periods of life satisfaction decline than individuals dying at earlier ages. Overall, the evidence suggests that late-life changes in aspects of well-being are driven by mortality-related mechanisms and characterized by terminal decline.

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