Quality of Life in healthy old age: relationships with childhood IQ, minor psychological symptoms and optimism

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2003 Nov;38(11):632-6. doi: 10.1007/s00127-003-0685-5.


Background: The aim of this study was to examine relationships in old age between Quality of Life (QoL), childhood IQ, current cognitive performance and minor psychological symptoms, and to estimate possible contributions to these relationships made by sex, education, socioeconomic deprivation, current living group, sex, and balance and 6m walk time.

Methods: We conducted a follow-up study on 88 community residents without dementia who were survivors of the Aberdeen City 1921 birth cohort. QoL was measured by the Schedule for the Evaluation of Individual QoL-Direct Weighting (SEIQoL-DW), current cognition by MMSE and Raven's Progressive Matrices (RPM), childhood IQ, minor psychological symptoms as assessed by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), and optimism by the Life Orientation Test (LOT); we included balance, 6m walk time and demographic data.

Results: QoL was better in men than in women. Women reported more anxiety and depression. QoL correlated significantly with current cognition measured by RPM, childhood intelligence, anxiety and depressive symptoms, optimism and balance. The best model to predict QoL relied on childhood intelligence (13.4% of the variance) and was improved by addition of HADS (8.8 %) and LOT (4.8 %). Other variables did not contribute to the prediction of QoL.

Conclusion: In the absence of dementia, childhood IQ, HADS and LOT explain 26.9% of the variance in QoL as reported by community-resident old people. The direction of association between current anxiety and depressive symptoms and lower QoL is uncertain. Lower childhood IQ may contribute to coping less well with later life. Lower QoL is not an invariable concomitant of mild cognitive decline.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Aged / psychology*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Attitude*
  • Cognition*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence*
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Scotland
  • Sex Factors