Predictors of subjective age in people aged 40-79 years: a five-year follow-up study. The impact of mastery, mental and physical health

Aging Ment Health. 2014 Jul;18(5):653-61. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2013.869545. Epub 2013 Dec 20.


Objectives: Assessing subjective age perception (SAP) and changes in SAP as well as exploring which variables of socio-demographic, health and personal mastery independently predicted SAP.

Methods: The panel data are from two waves of the Norwegian Study on the Life Course, Ageing and Generations (NorLAG). Our sample consists of 2471 people aged 40-79 years at baseline who were surveyed in 2002/2003 (T1) and 2007/2008 (T2). Univariate and multiple regressions were performed; multivariate analyses assessing the relative importance of the independent variables (at T1) for the SAP at T2.

Results: Older chronological age, good physical health, good mental health, a high level of personal mastery and having lower education significantly predicted a youthful SAP. For the whole sample, older age and a high level of personal mastery were the most important predictors. For those aged 40-49 being a man, having lower education, good physical health and high personal mastery predicted a younger SAP, whereas in the group aged 50-59 years being married/cohabiting and having a high level of education were predictors of an older SAP. For those aged 60-69, high personal mastery was the only independent predictor of a younger SAP. For those aged 70-79 years, only health - good mental and physical health - independently predicted a younger SAP.

Conclusions: Most respondents feel younger than their chronological age, the more the older they are. Self-rated physical and mental health and personal mastery are associated with SAP and vary in different age groups.

Keywords: longitudinal panel study; mental and physical health; personal mastery; subjective age perception.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Mental Health* / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Self Concept
  • Surveys and Questionnaires