Psychological predictors of mortality in old age

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 1999 Jan;54(1):P44-54. doi: 10.1093/geronb/54b.1.p44.


Cox regression models examined associations between 17 indicators of psychological functioning (intellectual abilities, personality, subjective well-being, and social relations) and mortality. The sample (N = 516, age range 70-103 years) comprised participants in the Berlin Aging Study assessed between 1990 and 1993. By 1996, 50% had died. Eleven indicators were identified as mortality risk factors at the zero-order level and six when age was controlled. Low perceptual speed and dissatisfaction with aging were uniquely significant after controls for age, SES, health, and the 16 other psychological factors. Low intellectual functioning was a greater risk for individuals aged 70-84 years than for the oldest old (over 85 years). The effects of psychological risk factors did not diminish over time. Future research should focus on the mechanisms and time frames that underlie the death-relatedness of intellectual functioning and self-evaluation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged / psychology*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Mortality*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Personality
  • Risk Factors