Character Strengths and Life Satisfaction in Later Life: an Analysis of Different Living Conditions
- 49 Downloads
The aim of this study was to explore the role of character strengths and their associations to life satisfaction in older people. We were interested in studying several transitions that are specific for older people: aging, retirement, living alone, and being widowed. We examined the relationships of these demographic characteristics and living conditions with character strengths and studied their effects on the association of character strengths with life satisfaction. In a cross-sectional analysis, 15,598 older adults (aged 46–93 years) who had completed measures on character strengths, life satisfaction, and demographic characteristics and living conditions were selected from an existing database. Overall, analyses revealed positive associations of most character strengths with age, and higher scores in most character strengths for the employed (vs. the retired) and those living with a partner (vs. those living alone), while only few relationships with being widowed (vs. being married) were observed. Further, the contribution of character strengths to life satisfaction generally decreased slightly with age, but increased for certain character strengths, such as modesty or prudence. Also, stronger relationships between several character strengths and life satisfaction were found for retired people and those living alone, while being widowed did not affect these relationships. The results demonstrate how character strengths might contribute to the life satisfaction of older adults in various living conditions and thereby offer a starting point for strengths-based programs in later life.
KeywordsCharacter strengths Life satisfaction Life course Positive psychology Middle and late adulthood Positive aging
This study has been supported by a research grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF; grant 100014_172723 awarded to WR).
- Bennett, D. A., Schneider, J. A., Tang, Y., Arnold, S. E., & Wilson, R. S. (2006). The effect of social networks on the relation between Alzheimer’s disease pathology and level of cognitive function in old people: a longitudinal cohort study. The Lancet Neurology, 5, 406–412. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(06)70417-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Charles, S., & Carstensen, L. L. (2010). Social and emotional aging. Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 383–409. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Erikson, E. H. (1980). Identity and the life cycle. New York: Norton (Originally published 1959).Google Scholar
- Gana, K., Bailly, N., Saada, Y., Joulain, M., & Alaphilippe, D. (2013). Does life satisfaction change in old age: Results from an 8-year longitudinal study. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 68, 540–552. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbs093.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hall, D. T., & Las Heras, M. (2013). Personal growth through career work. In K. S. Cameron & G. Spreitzer (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of positive organizational scholarship (pp. 507–518). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Heintz, S., Kramm, C., & Ruch, W. (2017). A meta-analysis of gender differences in character strengths and age, nation, and measure as moderators. The Journal of Positive Psychology. Advance online publication, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2017.1414297.
- Höfer, S., Gander, F., Höge, T., & Ruch, W. (2019). Editorial to the special issue „Character strengths, well- being, and health in educational and vocational settings”. Applied Research in Quality of Life, accepted.Google Scholar
- Höge, T., Strecker, C., Hausler, M., Huber, A., & Höfer, S. (2019). Perceived socio-moral climate and the applicability of signature character strengths at work: a study among hospital physicians. Applied Research in Quality of Life, accepted.Google Scholar
- Huber, A., Strecker, C., Hausler, M., Kachel, T., Höge, T., & Höfer, S. (2019). Possession and applicability of signature character strengths: What is essential for well-being, work engagement, and burnout? Applied Research in Quality of Life, accepted.Google Scholar
- Lamers, S. M. A., Westerhof, G. J., Bohlmeijer, E. T., & Keyes, C. L. M. (2013). Mental health and illness in relation to physical health across the lifespan. In J. D. Sinnott (Ed.), Positive psychology: Advances in understanding adult motivation (pp. 19–33). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Martínez-Martí, M., & Ruch, W. (2014). Character strengths and well-being across the life span: Data from a representative sample of German-speaking adults living in Switzerland. Frontiers in Psychology, 5. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01253.
- Maslow, A. H. (1968). Toward a psychology of being (2nd ed.). Princeton: Van Nostrand.Google Scholar
- Meyers, C. M., Kooij, D., Kroon, B., de Reuver, R., & van Woerkom, M. (2019). Organizational support for strengths use, work engagement, and contextual performance: The moderating role of age. Applied Research in Quality of Life, accepted.Google Scholar
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2017). OECD better life index. Health. Retrieved from: http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/topics/health/. Accessed 18 Dec 2017.
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
- Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Assessment of character strengths. In G. P. Koocher, J. C. Norcross, & S. S. Hill III (Eds.), Psychologists’ desk reference (2nd ed., pp. 93–98). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Pinquart, M. (2002). Creating and maintaining purpose in life in old age: a metaanalysis. Ageing International, 27, 90–114. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12126-002-1004-2.
- Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2013a). What good are character strengths beyond subjective well-being? The contribution of the good character on self-reported health-oriented behavior, physical fitness, and the subjective health status. Journal of Positive Psychology, 8, 222–232. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2013.777767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Proyer, R., Ruch, W., & Buschor, C. (2013b). Testing strengths-based interventions: A preliminary study on the effectiveness of a program targeting curiosity, gratitude, hope, humor, and zest for enhancing life satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 275–292. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9331-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Rogers, C. (1961). On becoming a person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
- Ruch, W., Huber, A., Beermann, U., & Proyer, R. T. (2007). Character strengths as predictors of the “good life” in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. In Romanian Academy, “George Barit“ Institute of History, Department of Social Research (Ed.), Studies and researches in social sciences (Vol. 16, pp. 123–131). Cluj-Napoca: Argonaut Press.Google Scholar
- Ruch, W., Proyer, R. T., Harzer, C., Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2010a). Values in action inventory of strengths (VIA-IS): Adaptation and validation of the German version and the development of a peer-rating form. Journal of Individual Differences, 31, 138–149. https://doi.org/10.1027/1614-0001/a000022.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Snyder, C. R., Lopez, S. J., Edwards, L. M., Teramoto Pedrotti, J., Porsser, E. C., LaRue Walton, S., et al. (2003). Measuring and labeling the positive and the negative. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures (pp. 21–39). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Strecker, C., Huber, A., Höge, T., Hausler, M., & Höfer, S. (2019). Identifying thriving workplaces in hospitals: Work characteristics and the applicability of character strengths at work. Applied Research in Quality of Life, accepted.Google Scholar
- Vaillant, G. E. (2004). Positive aging. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive psychology in practice (pp. 561–577). Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Wagner, L., Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2019). Character strengths and PERMA: Investigating the relationships of character strengths with a multidimensional framework of well-being. Applied Research in Quality of Life. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-018-9695-z.
- World Health Organization. (2002). Active ageing: A policy framework. Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
- World Health Organization. (2004). Promoting mental health: concepts, emerging evidence, practice (summary report) Geneva.Google Scholar
- World Health Organization (2006). Preamble to the constitution of the World Health Organization basic documents (45th ed.). Geneva. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/governance/eb/who_constitution_en.pdf
- World Health Organization. (2011). Global health and aging. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/ageing/publications/global_health/en/