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J Popul Ageing. 2016;9:49-67. doi: 10.1007/s12062-015-9132-0. Epub 2015 Aug 19.

Pathways to Well-Being in Later Life: Socioeconomic and Health Determinants Across the Life Course of Australian Baby Boomers.

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Centre for Research on Ageing, Health, and Well-being, Research School of Population Health, Australian National University, Building 62A, Eggleston Road, Canberra, ACT 0200 Australia.
ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), Sydney, Australia.
School of Psychology, Brennan MacCallum Building (A18), University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006 Australia.
Ageing, Work and Health Research Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, 75 East St, Lidcombe, Sydney, NSW 1825 Australia.
Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing, University of Newcastle, University Drive, Callaghan, NSW 2308 Australia.
School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PL England UK.
Contributed equally


In many countries like Australia and the United States, baby boomers are referred to as the 'lucky cohort', yet there has been little research on the origins and extent of inequalities within this cohort. This study uses path analysis to investigate direct and indirect effects of childhood and adult socioeconomic status and health on two subjective well-being measures: quality of life and life satisfaction. Retrospective life course data were obtained for 1,261 people aged 60 to 64 in the 2011-12 Life Histories and Health survey, a sub-study of the Australian 45 and Up Study. Supporting an accumulation model, the number of negative childhood and adult exposures were inversely related to both types of well-being. Consistent with a critical period model, childhood exposures had small but significant effects on subjective well-being and were relatively more important for quality of life than for life satisfaction. However, these childhood effects were largely indirect and significantly mediated by more proximal adult exposures, providing support for a pathway model. A key implication of this research is that the critical period for later life well-being is significant in adulthood rather than childhood, suggesting that there may be key opportunities for improving individuals' later life well-being far beyond the early, formative years. This research highlights the importance of understanding how earlier life exposures impact experiences in later life, and investing in health and socioeconomic opportunities to reduce inequalities across all stages of life.


Childhood exposures; Life satisfaction; Quality of life; Social determinants; Social mobility; Socioeconomic status

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