Social Indicators Research

, Volume 99, Issue 2, pp 183–203 | Cite as

Life Satisfaction Across the Lifespan: Findings from Two Nationally Representative Panel Studies

  • Brendan M. Baird
  • Richard E. LucasEmail author
  • M. Brent Donnellan


Two large-scale, nationally representative panel studies (the German Socio Economic Panel Study and the British Household Panel Study) were used to assess changes in life satisfaction over the lifespan. The cross-sectional and longitudinal features of these studies were used to isolate age-related changes from confounding factors including instrumentation effects and cohort effects. Although estimated satisfaction trajectories varied somewhat across studies, two consistent findings emerged. First, both studies show that life satisfaction does not decline over much of adulthood. Second, there is a steep decline in life satisfaction among those older than 70. The British data also showed a relatively large increase in satisfaction from the 40s to the early 70s. Thus, age differences in well-being can be quite large and deserve increased empirical and theoretical attention.


Subjective well-being Life satisfaction Aging Sequential design Instrumentation effects 



This research was supported in part by National Institute on Aging Grants AG026028 and AG028744 awarded to Richard E. Lucas and M. Brent Donnellan. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Brendan M. Baird, Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 46556; e-mail: The data used in this article were made available by the German Institute for Economic Research and by the UK Data Archive. The British Household Panel Study data were originally collected by the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-social Change at the University of Essex, Colchester, United Kingdom, now incorporated within the Institute for Social and Economic Research. Neither the original collectors of the data nor the archive bear any responsibility for the analyses or interpretations presented here.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brendan M. Baird
    • 1
  • Richard E. Lucas
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • M. Brent Donnellan
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.German Socio-Economic Panel Study, German Institute for Economic ResearchBerlinGermany

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