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Gerontologist. 2017 Apr 1;57(2):229-239. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnv119.

Exploring Subjective Well-being in Older Age by Using Participant-generated Word Clouds.

Author information

Department of Demography, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen, the Netherlands.
Healthy Ageing, Population and Society, University of Groningen, the Netherlands.
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, University of Groningen, the Netherlands.
Department of Health Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, the Netherlands.


Purpose of the study:

Previous research has overlooked the heterogeneity in older adults' personal conceptions of subjective well-being (SWB), by not taking into account intradomain differences in the conceptions of SWB for different groups of older adults. The aim of this article is therefore to explore (a) older adults' own views on which aspects, categorized under domains, are important to their SWB and (b) which domains and aspects are important to older adults in different contexts and with different characteristics: to men and women, of different ages, and in different housing arrangements.

Design and methods:

Sixty-six older adults (aged 65 and older) participated in our study. We asked the participants to freely nominate aspects of SWB that are important to them, using participant-generated word clouds as our exploratory, qualitative data collection method. The data were analyzed using qualitative inductive content analysis.


We found 15 domains based on our participants' conceptions of SWB. The multidimensional domains of social life, activities, health, and space and place were most important to our participants. The domains and aspects were defined and prioritized differently by different groups of participants.


SWB should be studied as a multidimensional, individualized, and contextualized process to generate meaningful empirical information for researchers and policymakers.


Assisted-living; Community-dwelling; Lay-view approach; Qualitative research.; The Netherlands

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