Effects of health and personality on subjective well -being in older adults

David Jonas Junowitz, Fordham University


Subjective well-being, comprised of the components of Affect and Life-Satisfaction, is a positive perception of one's life experiences and subjective health is among its strongest correlates. In spite of the moderate and strong associations typically found between subjective health and well-being, and between subjective health and objective health, but little or no association between objective health and well-being, it is surprising that only recently have studies recognized the importance of examining internal predictors of well-being, such as self-rated health and personality. Though researchers have long speculated about a short-term and homeostatic “neutral-point” of affect that is modified by experience and about a long-term and stable “set-point” of mood that is governed by personality, they have not examined the relative contributions of health or personality to explained variation in well-being along a temporal continuum of health. This study sought to examine time-dependent interactions among personality, self-rated health, objective health, and demographics and to delineate how these variables differentially influence the components of subjective well-being. Though limitations of study design and size and characteristics of the sample resulted in the nonsupport of most hypotheses, this study demonstrated (a) that personality is a stronger long-term predictor of well-being than is objective health; (b) that personality and demographics (including self-rated health), individually or in combination, are significant long-term predictors of life-satisfaction and affect, but significant short-term predictors of only the Affect component of well-being; and (c) a short-term effect of objective health on explained variance in life-satisfaction that is independent of effects of personality or demographics. Data support (a) the theory of a mood set-point; (b) the distinction between trait-mediated mood and event-generated emotion and the inadequacy of an “affect” component of subjective well-being; (c) the categorization of life-satisfaction into long and short-term components; (d) the role of personality and demographics in reducing a long-term adverse effect of objective health on subjective well-being; (e) the role of objective health in reducing a short-term influence of personality and demographics on life-satisfaction; and (f) both an “objective” memory effect and a personality bias in older adults' self-ratings of health.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Personality|Gerontology

Recommended Citation

Junowitz, David Jonas, "Effects of health and personality on subjective well -being in older adults" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9955965.