Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 269–291 | Cite as

The Impact of Positive Psychological Interventions on Well-Being in Healthy Elderly People

  • Pitchada SutipanEmail author
  • Ungsinun Intarakamhang
  • Ann Macaskill
Review Article


This systematic review aims to evaluate the impact of positive psychological interventions (PPIs) on well-being in healthy older adults. Systematic review of PPIs obtained from three electronic databases (PsycINFO, Scopus, and Web of Science) was undertaken. Inclusion criteria were: that they were positive psychology intervention, included measurement of well-being, participants were aged over 60 years, and the studies were in English. The cochrane collaboration Guidelines dimensions of quality control, randomization, comparability, follow-up rate, dropout, blinding assessors are used to rate the quality of studies by two reviewers independently. The reach, efficacy, adoption, implementation, and maintenance (RE-AIM) for evaluation of PPIs effectiveness was also applied. The final review included eight articles, each describing a positive psychological intervention study. The reminiscence interventions were the most prevalent type of PPIs to promote and maintain well-being in later life. Only two studies were rated as high quality, four were of moderate-quality and two were of low-quality. Overall results indicated that efficacy criteria (89 %), reach criteria (85 %), adoption criteria (73 %), implementation criteria (67 %), and maintenance criteria (4 %) across a variety of RE-AIM dimensions. Directions for future positive psychological research related to RE-AIM, and implications for decision-making, are described.


Positive psychological intervention Well-being Older people RE-AIM Systematic review 



This study was financially supported by the Thailand Research Fund through the Royal Golden Jubilee Ph.D. Program (Grant No. PHD/0002/2556).


  1. Armijo-Olivo, S., Stiles, C. R., Hagen, N. A., Biondo, P. D., & Cummings, G. G. (2010). Assessment of study quality for systematic reviews: a comparison of the Cochrane collaboration risk of bias tool and the effective public health practice project quality assessment tool: Methodological research. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 18(1), 12–18. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2753.2010.01516.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baird, B. M., Lucas, R. E., & Donnellan, M. B. (2010). Life satisfaction across the lifespan: Findings from two nationally representative panel studies. Social Indicators Research, 99, 183–203. doi: 10.1007/s11205-010-9584-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Biswas-Diener, R., Kashdan, T., & King, L. (2009). Two traditions of happiness research, not two distinct types of happiness. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 3(1), 208–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boland, A., Cherry, G. M., & Dickson, R. (2014). Doing a systematic review: A student’s guide. London: SAGE.Google Scholar
  5. Bolier, L., Haverman, M., Westerhof, G. J., Riper, H., Smit, F., & Bohlmeijer, E. (2013). Positive psychology interventions: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies. BMC Public Health, 13(1), 119–139. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bookwala, J., Harralson, T. L., & Parmelee, P. A. (2003). Effects of pain on functioning and well-being in older adults with osteoarthritis of the knee. Psychology and Aging, 18(4), 844–850. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.18.4.844.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bryant, F. B., Smart, C. M., & King, S. P. (2005). Using the past to enhance the present: Boosting happiness through positive reminiscence. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6(3), 227–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Butler, R. N. (1963). The life review: An interpretation of reminiscence in the aged. Psychiatry, 26(1), 65–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chiang, K. J., Lu, R. B., Chu, H., Chang, Y. C., & Chou, K. R. (2008). Evaluation of the effect of a life review group program on self-esteem and life satisfaction in the elderly. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 23(1), 7–10. doi: 10.1002/gps.1824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Comana, M. T., Brown, V. M., & Thomas, J. D. (1998). The effect of reminiscence therapy on family coping. Journal of Family Nursing, 4(2), 182–197. doi: 10.1177/107484079800400205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Corcoran, J., Brown, E., Davis, M., Pineda, M., Kadolph, J., & Bell, H. (2013). Depression in older adults: A meta-synthesis. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 56(6), 509–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Diener, E., & Chan, M. Y. (2011). Happy people live longer: Subjective well-being contributes to health and longevity. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(1), 1–43.Google Scholar
  13. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Emmons, R. A., & Shelton, C. S. (2002). Gratitude and the science of positive psychology. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 459–471). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Erikson, E., & Erikson, J. (1997). The life cycle completed: Extended version. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  17. Falagas, M. E., Pitsouni, E. I., Malietzis, G. A., & Pappas, G. (2008). Comparison of Pubmed, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar: Strengths and weaknesses. The FASEB Journal, 22(2), 338–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Frieswijk, N., Steverink, N., Buunk, B., & Slaets, J. P. J. (2006). The effectiveness of a bibliotherapy in increasing the self-management ability of slightly to moderately frail older people. Patient Education and Counselling, 61, 219–227. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2005.03.011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Glasgow, R. E., Vogt, T. M., & Boles, S. M. (1999). Evaluating the public health impact of health promotion interventions: The RE-AIM framework. American Journal of Public Health, 89, 1322–1327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Higgins, J. P. T., & Green, S. (2008). Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions. Chichester: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ho, H. C. Y., Yeung, D. Y., & Kwok, S. Y. C. L. (2014). Development and evaluation of the positive psychology intervention for older adults. Journal of Positive Psychology, 9(3), 187–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hone, L. C., Jarden, A., & Schofield, G. M. (2014). An evaluation of positive psychology intervention effectiveness trials using the re-aim framework: A practice-friendly review. The Journal of Positive Psychology. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2014.965267.Google Scholar
  23. Horder, H. M., Frandin, K., & Larsson, M. E. H. (2013). Self-respect through ability to keep fear of frailty at a distance: Successful ageing from the perspective of community-dwelling older people. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Health and Well-being, 8, 20194. doi: 10.3402/qhw.v8i0.20194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huta, V., & Ryan, R. M. (2010). Pursuing pleasure or virtue: The differential and overlapping wellbeing benefits of hedonic and eudemonic motives. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(6), 735–762.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwarz, N. (1999). Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  26. Killen, A., & Macaskill, A. (2014). Using a gratitude intervention to enhance well-being in older adults. Journal of Happiness Studies. doi: 10.1007/s10902-014-9542-3.Google Scholar
  27. Kim, E. S., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2011). Dispositional optimism protects older adults from stroke: The health and retirement study. Stroke, 42, 2855–2859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lawton, M. P. (1972). Assessing the competence of older people. In D. Kent, R. Kastenbaum, & S. Sherwood (Eds.), Research planning and action for the elderly (pp. 122–143). New York, NY: Behavioral Publications.Google Scholar
  29. Litwin, H., & Shiovitz-Ezra, S. (2006). The association between activity and wellbeing in later life: What really matters? Ageing and Society, 26(2), 225–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lundh, A., & Gøtzsche, P. C. (2008). Recommendations by cochrane review groups for assessment of the risk of bias in studies. BMC Medical Research Methodology. doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-8-22.Google Scholar
  31. Lusardi, A., & Mitchell, O. S. (2005). Financial literacy and planning: implications for retirement wellbeing. Michigan Retirement Research Center Research Paper No, WP 2005-108.Google Scholar
  32. Lyubomirsky, S., & Layous, K. (2013). How do simple positive activities increase well-being? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22, 57–62. doi: 10.1177/0963721412469809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803–855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lyubomirsky, S., Dickerhoof, R., Boehm, J. K., & Sheldon, K. M. (2011). Becoming happier takes both a will and a proper way: Two experimental longitudinal interventions to boost well-being. Emotion, 11(2), 391–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McCullough, M. E., Kilpatrick, S., Emmons, R. A., & Larson, D. (2001). Is gratitude a moral affect? Psychological Bulletin, 127, 249–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Meléndez Moral, J. C., Fortuna Terrero, F.B., Sales Galán, A., & Mayordomo Rodríguez, T. (2014). Effect of integrative reminiscence therapy on depression, wellbeing, integrity, self-esteem, and life satisfaction in older adults. Journal of Positive Psychology. Article in Press.Google Scholar
  37. Meléndez-Moral, J. C., Charco-Ruiz, L., Mayordomo-Rodríguez, T., & Sales-Galán, A. (2013). Effects of a reminiscence program among institutionalized elderly adults. Psicothema, 25(3), 319–323.Google Scholar
  38. National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. (2014). Latest Demographic Statistics 2014 (in Japanese). Tokyo: National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.Google Scholar
  39. Neugarten, B. L., Havighurst, R., & Tobin, S. (1961). The measurement of life satisfaction. Journal of Gerontology, 16, 134–143. doi: 10.1093/geronj/16.2.134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Oddone, C. G., Hybels, C. F., McQuoid, D. R., & Steffens, D. C. (2011). Social support modifies the relationship between personality and depressive symptoms in older adults. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 19, 123–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ormel, J., Kempen, G. I. J. M., Deeg, D. J. H., Brilman, E. I., van Sonderen, E., & Relyveld, J. (1998). Functioning, well-being, and health perception in late middle aged and older people: Comparing the effects of depressive symptoms on chronic medical conditions. Journal of American Geriatrics Society, 46(1), 39–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Strengths of character and wellbeing. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23, 603–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Parks, A. C., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2013). Positive interventions: Past, present, and future. In T. Kashdan & J. Ciarrochi (Eds.), Mindfulness, acceptance, and positive psychology: The seven foundations of wellbeing (pp. 140–165). Oakland, CA: Context Press.Google Scholar
  44. Pasupathi, M., & Carstensen, L. L. (2003). Age and emotional experience during mutual reminiscing. Psychology and Aging, 18, 430–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2003). Character strengths before and after September 11. Psychological Science, 14, 381–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Population Reference Bureau. (2014). 2014 WORLD POPULATION DATA SHEET.
  47. Preschl, B., Maercker, A., Wagner, B., Forstmeier, S., Baños, R. M., Alcañiz, M., et al. (2012). Life-review therapy with computer supplements for depression in the elderly: A randomized controlled trial. Aging and Mental Health, 16(8), 964–974. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2012.702726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ramirez, E., Ortega, A. R., Chamorro, A., & Colmenero, J. M. (2014). A program of positive intervention in the elderly: Memories, gratitude and forgiveness. Aging and Mental Health, 18(4), 463–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rash, J. A., Matsuba, M. K., & Prakachin, K. M. (2011). Gratitude and well-being: Who benefits the most from a gratitude intervention? Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(3), 350–369. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-0854.2011.01058.x.Google Scholar
  50. Reed, G. L., & Enright, R. D. (2006). The effects of forgiveness therapy on depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress for women after spousal emotional abuse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 920–929.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and edaimonic well-being. Annual Reviews of Psychology, 52, 141–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ryan, R. M., Huta, V., & Deci, E. L. (2008). Living well: A self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 139–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological wellbeing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sandvik, E., Diener, E., & Seidlitz, L. (2009). Subjective well-being: The convergence and stability of self-report and non-self-report measures. Social Indicators Research Series, 39, 119–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schrank, B., Riches, S., Bird, V., Murray, J., Tylee, A., & Slade, M. (2014). A conceptual framework for improving well-being in people with a diagnosis of psychosis. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 23(4), 377–387. doi: 10.1017/S2045796013000462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfilment. New York, NY: Free Press.Google Scholar
  57. Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55, 51–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Seligman, M. E. P., Parks, A. C., & Steen, T. (2004). A balanced psychology and full life. Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society of London, 359(1449), 1379–1381. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2004.1513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2002). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin and Company.Google Scholar
  61. Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). Is it possible to become happier? (And If So, How?). Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1(1), 129–145. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2007.00002.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sherman, E. (1991). Reminiscence and the self in old age. New York: Springer Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  63. Shtompel, N., Whiteman, K., & Ruggiano, N. (2014). Negative feelings and help seeking among older adults with chronic conditions. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 57(8), 810–824. doi: 10.1080/01634372.2014.898008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sin, N. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychology interventions: A practice-friendly meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(5), 467–487. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Sirgy, M. J., & Wu, J. (2009). The pleasant life, the engaged life, and the meaningful life: What about the balanced life? Journal of Happiness Studies, 10, 183–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Steptoe, A., Deaton, A., & Stone, A. A. (2014). Subjective wellbeing, health, and ageing. The Lancet. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61489-0.Google Scholar
  67. Steverink, N., Schuurmans, H., Slaets, J. P. J., Lindenberg, S., Frieswijk, N., & Buunk, B. P. (2003). Can self-management ability help to maintain subjective well-being in frail elderly people? Gerontologist, 43, 551.Google Scholar
  68. Sutton, A. J., Abrams, K. R., Jones, D. R., Sheldon, T. A., & Song, F. (1998). Systematic reviews of trials and other studies. Health Technology Assessment, 2(9), 1–276.Google Scholar
  69. Tobin, G., & Begley, C. (2004). Methodological rigour within a qualitative framework. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 48(4), 388–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. (2013). World Population Ageing 2013.
  71. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS Scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1063–1070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Watt, L. M., & Cappeliez, P. (2000). Integrative and instrumental reminiscence therapies for depression in older adults: Intervention strategies and treatment effectiveness. Aging and Mental Health, 4, 166–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Webster, J. D., Bohlmeijer, E. T., & Westerhof, G. J. (2010). Mapping the future of reminiscence: A conceptual guide for research and practice. Research on Aging, 32, 527–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Westerhof, G. J., & Keyes, C. L. M. (2006). Reminiscence and mental health: a review of recent progress in theory, research and interventions. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 61B(5), 240–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Wiest, M., Schüz, B., Webster, N., & Wurm, S. (2011). Subjective well-being and mortality revisited: Differential effects of cognitive and emotional facets of well-being on mortality. Health Psychology, 30(6), 728–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. You, E., Dunt, D., Doyle, C., & Hsueh, A. (2012). Effects of case management in community aged care on client and carer outcomes: A systematic review of randomized trials and comparative observational studies. BMC Health Services Research, 12, 395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pitchada Sutipan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ungsinun Intarakamhang
    • 1
  • Ann Macaskill
    • 2
  1. 1.Behavioral Science Research Institute (BSRI)Srinakharinwirot UniversityBangkokThailand
  2. 2.Psychology Research GroupSheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUK

Personalised recommendations