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Character Strengths and Life Satisfaction in Later Life: an Analysis of Different Living Conditions


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.

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  1. For several correlations with dichotomous variables (“point-biserial correlations”; such as with retirement status, gender, etc.) equal variances could not be assumed due to the large sample size. Thus, the reported relationships might yield a (minor) underestimation of the true relationships. Correcting for the inequality of variances would not have affected the significance of the results.

  2. For comparability reasons, we did not compute partial correlations controlling for age and gender in the different subgroups separately, since this would yield different regression weights for the control variables in every subgroup. Instead, we computed residualized scores (i.e., controlled for age and gender) for both sets of variables (i.e., life satisfaction and character strengths) in the total sample and then analyzed the correlations among the residua in the subgroups.


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This study has been supported by a research grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF; grant 100014_172723 awarded to WR).

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Correspondence to Doris Baumann.

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Baumann, D., Ruch, W., Margelisch, K. et al. Character Strengths and Life Satisfaction in Later Life: an Analysis of Different Living Conditions. Applied Research Quality Life 15, 329–347 (2020).

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  • Character strengths
  • Life satisfaction
  • Life course
  • Positive psychology
  • Middle and late adulthood
  • Positive aging