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Int Psychogeriatr. 2014 Mar;26(3):373-81. doi: 10.1017/S1041610213002287. Epub 2013 Dec 5.

Operational definitions of successful aging: a systematic review.

Author information

1
Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Cambridge Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
2
Centre for Global Mental Health, Department of Health Services and Population Research, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK.
3
Parc Sanitari, Sant Joan de Deu, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
4
Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Half a century after the inception of the term "successful aging (SA)," a consensus definition has not emerged. The current study aims to provide a comprehensive snapshot of operational definitions of SA.

METHODS:

A systematic review across MedLine, PsycInfo, CINAHL, EMBASE, and ISI Web of Knowledge of quantitative operational definitions of SA was conducted.

RESULTS:

Of the 105 operational definitions, across 84 included studies using unique models, 92.4% (97) included physiological constructs (e.g. physical functioning), 49.5% (52) engagement constructs (e.g. involvement in voluntary work), 48.6% (51) well-being constructs (e.g. life satisfaction), 25.7% (27) personal resources (e.g. resilience), and 5.7% (6) extrinsic factors (e.g. finances). Thirty-four definitions consisted of a single construct, 28 of two constructs, 27 of three constructs, 13 of four constructs, and two of five constructs. The operational definitions utilized in the included studies identify between <1% and >90% of study participants as successfully aging.

CONCLUSIONS:

The heterogeneity of these results strongly suggests the multidimensionality of SA and the difficulty in categorizing usual versus successful aging. Although the majority of operationalizations reveal a biomedical focus, studies increasingly use psychosocial and lay components. Lack of consistency in the definition of SA is a fundamental weakness of SA research.

PMID:
24308764
DOI:
10.1017/S1041610213002287
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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