Correlates and aetiological factors associated with hedonic well-being among an ageing population of US men and women: secondary data analysis of a national survey

BMJ Open. 2018 Nov 13;8(11):e020962. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020962.


Objective: To understand the gender-specific factors that uniquely contribute to successful ageing in a US population of men and women, 57-85 years of age. This was achieved through the examination of the correlates of subjective well-being defined by health-related quality of life (HRQoL), across several biological and psychosocial determinants of health.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: The National Social Life, Health and Ageing Project (NSHAP), 2010-2011 a representative sample of the US population.

Participants: 3377 adults aged 57-85 (1538 men, 1839 women) from the NSHAP.

Main outcome measures: The biopsychosocial factors of biological/physiological function, symptom status, functional status, general health perceptions and HRQoL happiness.

Method: HRQoL was measured using the NSHAP wave 2 multistage, stratified area probability sample of US households (n=3377). Variable selection was guided by the Wilson and Cleary model (WCM) that classifies health outcomes at five main levels and characteristics.

Results: Our findings indicate differences in biopsychosocial factors comprised in the WCM and their relative importance and unique impact on HRQoL by gender. Women reported significantly lower HRQoL than men (t=3.5, df=3366). The most significant contributors to HRQoL in women were mental health (B=0.31; 0.22, 0.39), loneliness (B=-0.26; -0.35, -0.17), urinary incontinence (B=-0.22; -0.40, -0.05) and support from spouse/partner (B=0.27; 0.10, 0.43) and family B=0.12; 0.03, 0.20). Men indicated mental health (B=0.21; 0.14, 0.29), physical health (B=0.17; 0.10, 0.23), functional difficulties (B=0.38; 0.10, 0.65), loneliness (B=-0.20; -0.26, -0.12), depression (B=-0.36; -0.58, -0.15) and support from friends (B=0.06; 0.10, 0.11) as significant contributors. Those with greater social support had better HRQoL (F=4.22, df=4). Lack of companionship and reliance on spouse/partner were significant HRQoL contributors in both groups.

Conclusion: Our findings offer insight into ageing, gender and subjective well-being. The results provide an opportunity to identify biopsychosocial factors to inform interventions to support successful ageing.

Keywords: aging; gender differences; health-related quality of life; well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Health Surveys
  • Healthy Aging* / physiology
  • Healthy Aging* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States