Research Paper

Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 1563-1574

Daily Functioning, Health Status, and Happiness in Older Adults

  • Erik AngnerAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, George Mason University Email author 
  • , Jennifer GhandhiAffiliated withUniversity of Chicago
  • , Kristen Williams PurvisAffiliated withUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham
  • , Daniel AmanteAffiliated withUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School
  • , Jeroan AllisonAffiliated withUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School

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Abstract

The hypothesis that the degree to which disease disrupts daily functioning is inversely associated with happiness is widely accepted, yet existing literature offers little direct evidence in its support. This paper explores the hypothesized association in a community-based sample of 383 older adults. To assess the degree to which disease disrupts daily functioning we developed a measure—called the freedom-from-debility score—based on four Short Form-12 (SF-12) Health Survey questions explicitly designed to represent “limitations in physical activities because of health problems” and “limitations in usual role activities because of physical health problems.” The results were consistent with the hypothesis. When participants were divided into categories based on their freedom-from-debility score, median happiness scores were monotonically increasing across categories. Controlling for demographic and socio-economic factors as well as health status (measured both subjectively and objectively), a one-point increase in freedom-from-debility score (on a scale from 0 to 100) was associated with a three-percent reduction in the odds of lower-quartile happiness. The results support the contention that health status is one of the most influential predictors of happiness, that the association between health status and happiness depends greatly on the manner in which health status is measured, and that the degree to which disease disrupts daily functioning is inversely associated with happiness.

Keywords

Health status Daily functioning Debility Happiness Subjective well-being