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Soc Sci Med. 2018 Jun;207:11-18. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.04.011. Epub 2018 Apr 12.

Quality of life at the retirement transition: Life course pathways in an early 'baby boom' birth cohort.

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Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University, UK. Electronic address:
Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University, UK.


Promoting quality of life (QoL) in later life is an important policy goal. However, studies using prospective data to explore the mechanisms by which earlier events influence QoL in older age are lacking. This study is the first to use prospective data to investigate pathways by which a range of measures of life-course socioeconomic status contribute to later-life QoL. The study uses data from the Newcastle Thousand Families Study cohort (N = 1142), an early 'baby-boom' birth cohort born in 1947 in Newcastle upon Tyne, an industrial city in north-east England. Using prospective survey data collected between birth and later adulthood (N = 393), a path analysis investigated the effects and relative contributions of a range of life-course socioeconomic factors to QoL at age 62-64 measured using the CASP-19 scale. Strong positive effects on later-life QoL were found for advantaged occupational status in mid-life and better self-reported health, employment and mortgage-freedom in later adulthood. Significant positive indirect effects on QoL were found from social class at birth and achieved education level, mediated through later-life socioeconomic advantage. Experiencing no adverse events by age five had a large total positive effect on QoL at age 62-64, comprising a direct effect and indirect effects, mediated through education, mid-life social class and later-life self-reported health. Results support a pathway model with the effects of factors in earlier life acting via later-life factors, and an accumulation model with earlier-life factors having large total, cumulative effects on later-life QoL. The presence of a direct effect of adverse childhood events by age five on QoL suggests a 'critical period' and indicates that policies across the life-course are needed to promote later-life QoL, with policies directed towards older adults perhaps too late to 'undo the damage' of earlier adverse events.


Later life; Life-course; Pathways; Prospective data; Quality of life; Socioeconomic status; Subjective wellbeing; UK

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