Background: Quality of life (QoL) is a subjective and dynamic concept resulting from an interplay between importance of and satisfaction with different aspects of life. However, it is unclear whether social contexts experienced by individuals born at specific times in history (cohort effects) may influence QoL in old age. This study aimed to compare among older persons born before, during, and at the end of World War II: a) satisfaction with QoL, overall and per domains; b) importance of QoL domains.
Methods: This repeated cross-sectional study included representative samples of community-dwelling adults born in 1934-1938 (pre-war), 1939-1943 (war), and 1944-1948 (baby-boom) from the Lausanne cohort 65+. QoL was assessed overall, and in seven domains in 2011 and 2016. Two-by-two cohort comparisons were performed at ages 68-72 (war versus baby-boom) and 73-77 years (pre-war versus war).
Results: Overall satisfaction with QoL did not differ between cohorts despite increased education level across cohorts and a shift between pre-war and war cohorts towards lower morbidity and higher proportion living alone. However, "Feeling of safety" consistently showed significant improvements from earlier to later-born cohorts. Furthermore, the war cohort reported higher satisfaction than pre-war cohort in "Autonomy". Conversely, no significant difference was observed between cohorts in importance of QoL domains, except increased importance given to "Health and mobility" in the war compared to pre-war cohort.
Conclusions: Societal changes reflected in the profile of successive elders' cohorts did not appear to modify the overall satisfaction with QoL.
Keywords: Cohort; Community older people; Importance; Quality of life; Satisfaction.