Humor as a character strength among the elderly

Empirical findings on age-related changes and its contribution to satisfaction with life

Humor als Charakterstärke bei älteren Menschen

Empirische Befunde zu altersabhängigen Veränderungen und zum Beitrag von Humor zur allgemeinen Lebenszufriedenheit

Abstract

Background

Positive psychology studies what is best in people. In their classification of strengths and virtues, Peterson and Seligman [11] assign humor to the virtue of transcendence. Thus far, there is no specific study that deals with age-related changes in humor (as a strength of character) across a lifespan and its relation to well-being in the elderly.

Participants and methods

A total of n=42,964 participants completed an online questionnaire on humor as a strength of character. Participants also completed the Satisfaction with Life Scale and the Orientations to Happiness Scale.

Results

In a cross-sectional design, the scores for humor decreased until the age of 50. Men between 51 and 62 years had higher scores; there was a trend for women older than 70 to score higher (but this was not statistically significant). Humor was robustly positively correlated with life satisfaction, as well with a pleasurable and an engaged life, but was lowest with a meaningful life. The oldest participants had the lowest (yet still meaningful) correlation coefficients (with the exception of a meaningful life).

Conclusion

The study contributes to the understanding of humor across the lifespan and underlines the importance of studies among the elderly within a framework of positive psychology.

Zusammenfassung

Hintergrund

Die Positive Psychologie untersucht das Beste im Menschen. Humor wird als Charakterstärke verstanden, die der Tugend Transzendenz zugeordnet wird.

Stichprobe und Methoden

Insgesamt 42.964 Teilnehmer/innen bearbeiteten online einen Fragebogen für Humor als Charakterstärke, eine Lebenszufriedenheitsskala sowie eine Skala zu Orientierungen zum Glück.

Ergebnisse

In einem Querschnittsdesign sanken die Humorwerte der Teilnehmer bis zum Alter von 50 Jahren. Männer zwischen 61 und 65 erzielten höhere Werte. Humor war bedeutsam mit Lebenszufriedenheit korreliert und ebenso mit dem „vergnüglichen Leben“, dem „engagierten Leben“, aber am niedrigsten mit dem „bedeutsamen Leben“. Dies fand sich (mit Ausnahme des „bedeutsamen Lebens“) auch für die ältesten Teilnehmer/innen.

Fazit

Die Studie trägt zum Verständnis von Humor über die gesamte Lebensspanne bei und zeigt den Nutzen, Humor im Rahmen von Konzepten aus der Positiven Psychologie bei älteren Menschen zu erforschen.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the participants who spent their time filling in the various questionnaires at htttp://www.charakterstaerken.org.

Conflict of interest

The corresponding author states that there are no conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Prof. Dr. W. Ruch.

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Ruch, W., Proyer, R. & Weber, M. Humor as a character strength among the elderly. Z Gerontol Geriat 43, 13–18 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00391-009-0090-0

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Keywords

  • Aging
  • Humor
  • Orientations to happiness
  • Positive psychology
  • Satisfaction with life

Schlüsselwörter

  • Altern
  • Humor
  • Lebenszufriedenheit
  • Orientierungen zum Glück
  • Positive Psychologie