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It’s “the Joneses”: the influence of objective and subjective socioeconomic status on subjective perceptions of aging


Positive subjective perceptions of aging predict various well-being, physical health, mental health, and longevity outcomes. Thus, it is important to consider what factors contribute to their formation. Socioeconomic status (SES) has been hypothesized to be one such factor, but past research has been mixed. We propose that subjective assessments of SES may better predict subjective perceptions of aging than traditional objective measures (e.g., income and education). The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of objective and subjective indicators of SES on subjective perceptions of aging. Participants (n = 296) from the Mindfulness and Anticipatory Coping Everyday study were recruited with a Human Intelligence Task on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Participants reported on their SES (i.e., income, education, and subjective social status) and subjective perceptions of aging (i.e., attitudes toward own aging, subjective age, and awareness of age-related gains and losses). Data were analyzed via hierarchical multiple regression with demographic and health variables entered first, followed by income and education, then subjective social status. Results demonstrated that although objective measures of SES did not contribute to predicting subjective perceptions of aging, those who rated themselves subjectively higher in their community social standing were more likely to possess positive aging attitudes, younger subjective ages, more awareness of age-related gains, and fewer awareness of age-related losses. These findings suggest that perceptions of doing better than one’s neighbors (i.e., “the Joneses”) may matter more for understanding subjective perceptions of aging than objective indicators of social status.

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  1. In addition, we ran the same models including retirement status as a control variable in Step 1. The pattern of results remained unchanged.


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This research was supported by a Scholarship and Research Award to Shevaun D, Neupert from North Carolina State University. The authors wish to thank Hari Iyer for guiding us to the confidence interval test for R squared.

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Correspondence to Jennifer A. Bellingtier.

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Responsible editor: Marja J. Aartsen

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English, A.N., Bellingtier, J.A. & Neupert, S.D. It’s “the Joneses”: the influence of objective and subjective socioeconomic status on subjective perceptions of aging. Eur J Ageing 16, 121–128 (2019).

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  • Subjective age
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Subjective social status
  • Aging attitudes