Social Indicators Research

, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 179–203 | Cite as

Beyond Life Satisfaction: Lay Conceptions of Well-Being among Middle-Aged and Elderly Adults

  • Gerben J. Westerhof
  • Freya Dittmann-Kohli
  • Toine Thissen


The present study examines lay conceptions ofwell-being in a representative sample ofGermans in the second half of life. Respondentsfilled out a sentence completion questionnaireas well as the Satisfaction With Life Scale(SWLS). In their sentence completions,respondents gave spontaneous descriptions oftheir lives as a whole in terms ofsatisfaction, quality (good/bad), achievement,retrospection, and other global dimensions.They also referred to the intrapersonal andinterpersonal domain, health and functioning,and other specific life domains in thesesentence completions. Systematic differenceswere found in the dimensions referred to inpositive and negative judgments and across agegroups. Hardly any of the negative judgmentswere couched in terms of life satisfaction. Thesentence completions and the SWLS resulted insimilar evaluations, but the personallymeaningful dimensions of judgment which emergedfrom the sentence completions were only partlycovered by the dimensions inherent in the SWLSitems. These findings are discussed in relationto existing studies on subjective well-beingand successful aging, which appear to focus toonarrowly on life satisfaction at the expense ofother personally meaningful dimensions of lifejudgments.


Life Satisfaction Representative Sample Life Domain Elderly Adult Successful Aging 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerben J. Westerhof
    • 1
  • Freya Dittmann-Kohli
    • 1
  • Toine Thissen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychogerontologyUniversity of NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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