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Subjective Views of Aging in the Context of Adversity: In Support of a Resource-Stress Model

Part of the International Perspectives on Aging book series (Int. Perspect. Aging,volume 33)


Adverse life events, such as trauma or stress, along with subjective perceptions regarding the aging self, constitute two issues that influence late-life development. Yet, earlier literature paid less attention to the ways in which these aspects may intersect in old age. The current chapter focuses on what studies of trauma teach us about subjective views of aging (VoA). Two VoA (subjective age and subjective estimated time to death, SETtD) are reviewed in the context of diverse traumatic events that may occur across the life span. This literature review along with application of meta-analytical techniques, suggests that these VoA, in addition to measuring aspects of age identity, also measure a ratio of resources to stressors, either in the past/present (subjective age) or with regard to the future (e.g., SETtD). Namely, having more past resources than past stressors would reflect a younger subjective age, similarly, having more estimated future resources than estimated future stressors would reflect a longer SETtD. One implication of this resource/stress model of VoA is that the same young subjective evaluation reflecting the same resource-stress ratio, may stem from different patterns, e.g., high resources with slightly lower stress or from low resource levels coupled by even lower stress. Additional issues are also clarified by this conceptualization, along with unresolved issues awaiting future research that are discussed. This proposed theoretical outlook leads to novel theoretical and practical implications.

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  1. 1.

    This single item measure of subjective age is sometimes called “felt age” which is typically used interchangeably with “subjective age” and “age identity” (e.g., Boehmer, 2007). Although a claim to distinguish subjective age from age identity has been made (Diehl et al., 2014), it has not been subjected to empirical study; further, even according to this suggestion, subjective age ratings are seen to reflect age identity (p.100, “effects of advancing chronological age on their physical, psychological, and social functioning”). Moreover, most authors, use these terms interchangeably (e.g., Barak, 2009; Wurm et al., 2017). Finally, both age identity and subjective age, are assessed with the same item (“how old one feels”). Wurm et al. (2017) defines age identity as the product of subtracting one’s subjective age from one’s chronological age, divided by one’s chronological age, a measure we use in the meta-analytic section, i.e., essentially, according to classic theories one’s subjective age reflects one’s age identity.

  2. 2.

    This current outlook whereby resources and stress can be independent, or at least teased apart, may differ from Hobfoll’s (2002) conservation of resource theory, whereby resource and stress can be interdependent.


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Correspondence to Yaakov Hoffman .

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© 2022 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

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Hoffman, Y., Avidor, S., Palgi, Y. (2022). Subjective Views of Aging in the Context of Adversity: In Support of a Resource-Stress Model. In: Palgi, Y., Shrira, A., Diehl, M. (eds) Subjective Views of Aging. International Perspectives on Aging, vol 33. Springer, Cham.

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-031-11072-6

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-031-11073-3

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