The influence of subjective aging on health and longevity: a meta-analysis of longitudinal data

Psychol Aging. 2014 Dec;29(4):793-802. doi: 10.1037/a0038016. Epub 2014 Nov 3.


Evidence is accumulating on the effects of subjective aging-that is, how individuals perceive their own aging process-on health and survival in later life. The goal of this article is to synthesize findings of existing longitudinal studies through a meta-analysis. A systematic search in PsycInfo, Web of Science, Scopus, and Pubmed resulted in 19 longitudinal studies reporting effects of subjective aging on health, health behaviors, and longevity. The authors combine the outcomes reported in these studies using a random effects meta-analysis, assuming that there would be differences in effect sizes across studies. The meta-analysis resulted in an overall significant effect of subjective aging (likelihood ratio = 1.429; 95% confidence interval = 1.273-1.604; p < .001). The analyses revealed heterogeneity, with stronger effects for studies with a shorter period of follow-up, for studies of health versus survival, for studies with younger participants (average age of the studies varies between 57 and 85 years with a median of 63 years), and for studies in welfare systems where state provisions of welfare are minimal. However, effects did not vary either across different operationalizations of subjective aging or by study quality. Subjective aging has a small significant effect on health, health behaviors, and survival. Further theoretical conceptualizations and empirical studies are needed to determine how subjective aging contributes to health and survival.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Publication Bias
  • Survival Analysis