Using a micro-level model to generate a macro-level model of productive successful aging

Gerontologist. 2015 Feb;55(1):107-19. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnu089. Epub 2014 Sep 11.


Purpose of the study: Aging successfully entails good physical and cognitive health, as well as ongoing participation in social and productive activity. This study hones in on participation in productive activity, a factor that makes an important contribution to successful aging. One conceptual model of productive activity in later life specifies the antecedents and consequences of productivity. This study draws on that micro-level model to develop a corresponding macro-level model and assesses its utility for examining the predictors of and explaining the relationships between one form of productivity (labor force participation rates) and one aspect of well-being (average life expectancy) among males and females.

Design and methods: Random effects regression models and path analysis were used to analyze cross-national longitudinal data for 24 high-income Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries at seven time points (1980-2010; 168 observations total).

Results: OECD countries with higher labor force participation rates among older workers have higher life expectancies. Labor force participation mediates the effects of gross domestic product per capita on male and female life expectancy, and it mediates the effect of self-employment rate for men, but it acts as a suppressor with regard to the effect of public spending on male and female life expectancy.

Implications: A well-known micro-level model of productive activity can be fruitfully adapted to account for macro-level cross-national variation in productivity and well-being.

Keywords: Cross-cultural; Gender; Labor force participation; Life expectancy; Productive aging; Successful aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Culture
  • Employment / economics*
  • Employment / psychology
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Values
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological