Resilient Aging: Psychological Well-Being and Social Well-Being as Targets for the Promotion of Healthy Aging

Gerontol Geriatr Med. 2021 Mar 23:7:23337214211002951. doi: 10.1177/23337214211002951. eCollection 2021 Jan-Dec.


Population aging is one of the most important social trends of the 21st century and in the United States, the number of people aged ≥65 is projected to increase by nearly 50% in the next 15 years. Most biomedical and public health efforts have focused on reducing harmful risk factors when targeting chronic disease-an approach that has contributed greatly to prevention and treatment programs. However, evidence suggests that the number of years lost to disability is increasing and historic gains we have made in life expectancy are eroding, and even reversing in some groups. As our society ages and grapples with these issues, expanding the focus to include resilience, as well as psychosocial assets in our prevention and treatment programs might help inform the multidisciplinary response effort we need. Here we synthesize research evaluating associations between different dimensions of psychological well-being (e.g., purpose in life, optimism, life satisfaction) and social well-being (e.g., structural, functional, quality) with chronic conditions. We also evaluate evidence around three biopsychosocial pathways hypothesized to underlie these associations. These factors are meaningful, measurable, and potentially modifiable; thus, further pursuing this line of inquiry might unveil innovative paths to enhancing the health of our rapidly aging society.

Keywords: healthy aging; older adults; psychological well-being; resilience; social well-being.