Encyclopedia of Geropsychology

2017 Edition
| Editors: Nancy A. Pachana

Distance-to-Death Research in Geropsychology

  • Oliver K. SchillingEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-082-7_125


Distance-to-death and time-to-death; Terminal changes and time-to-death-related changes; Terminal decline and terminal drop; Time-to-death-related trajectory and time-to-death-related growth curves


In the broadest sense, distance-to-death research in geropsychology includes all kinds of examinations of associations between facets of psychological functioning and time-to-death. In a narrower sense, however, the term refers to the study of terminal changes in psychological functioning, that is, intraindividual changes that occur time-to-death related at the end of the individual’s lifespan. Up to the present, geropsychological distance-to-death research for the most part consists of studies of terminal decline and terminal drop in cognitive functioning and subjective well-being.

Distance-to-Death Research in Geropsychology

Across the past decades, research in geropsychology increasingly considered distance-to-death as indicator of psychological changes that unfold at...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bäckman, L., & MacDonald, S. W. S. (2006). Death and cognition: Synthesis and outlook. European Psychologist, 11, 224–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baltes, P. B., & Nesselroade, J. R. (1979). History and rationale of longitudinal research. In J. R. Nesselroade & P. B. Baltes (Eds.), Longitudinal research in the study of behavior and development (pp. 1–39). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  3. Birren, J. E., & Cunningham, W. R. (1985). Research on the psychology of aging: Principles, concepts and theory. In J. E. Birren & K. W. Schaie (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of aging (2nd ed., pp. 3–34). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.Google Scholar
  4. Bosworth, H. B., & Siegler, I. C. (2002). Terminal change in cognitive function: An updated review of longitudinal studies. Experimental Aging Research, 28, 299–315.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Busse, E. W. (1969). Theories of aging. In E. W. Busse & E. Pfeiffer (Eds.), Behavior and adaptation in late life (pp. 11–32). Boston: Little and Brown.Google Scholar
  6. Cadar, D., Stephan, B. C. M., Jagger, C., Johansson, B., Hofer, S. M., Piccinin, A. M., & Muniz-Terrera, G. (2015). The role of cognitive reserve on terminal decline: A cross-cohort analysis from two European studies: OCTO-Twin, Sweden, and Newcastle 85+, UK. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. doi:10.1002/gps.4366.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Charles, S. T., & Carstensen, L. L. (2009). Social and emotional aging. Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 383–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cudeck, R., & Harring, J. R. (2007). Analysis of nonlinear patterns of change with random coefficient models. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 615–637.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Curran, P. J., Obeidat, K., & Losardo, D. (2010). Twelve frequently asked questions about growth curve modeling. Journal of Cognition and Development, 11, 121–136.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Deary, I. J., Whiteman, M. C., Starr, J. M., Whalley, L. J., & Fox, H. C. (2004). The impact of childhood intelligence on later life: Following up the Scottish Mental Survey of 1932 and 1947. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 130–147.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Erikson, E. H. (1997). The life cycle completed – Extended version. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  12. Gerstorf, D., & Ram, N. (2013). Inquiry into terminal decline: Five objectives for future study. Gerontologist, 53, 727–737.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gerstorf, D., Ram, N., Estabrook, R., Schupp, J., Wagner, G. G., & Lindenberger, U. (2008a). Life satisfaction shows terminal decline in old age: Longitudinal evidence from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP). Developmental Psychology, 44, 1148–1159.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gerstorf, D., Ram, N., Röcke, C., Lindenberger, U., & Smith, J. (2008b). Decline in life satisfaction in old age: Longitudinal evidence for links to distance-to-death. Psychology and Aging, 23, 154–168.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gerstorf, D., Ram, N., Mayraz, G., Hidajat, M., Lindenberger, U., Wagner, G. G., & Schupp, J. (2010). Late-life decline in well-being across adulthood in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States: Something is seriously wrong at the end of life. Psychology and Aging, 25, 477–485.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gerstorf, D., Ram, N., Lindenberger, U., & Smith, J. (2013). Age and time-to-death trajectories of change in indicators of cognitive, sensory, physical, health, social, and self-related functions. Developmental Psychology, 49, 1805–1821.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heckhausen, J., Wrosch, C., & Schulz, R. (2010). A motivational theory of life-span development. Psychological Review, 117, 32–60.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kaiser, R., Winning, K., Uter, W., Volkert, D., Lesser, S., Stehle, P., Kaiser, M. J., Sieber, C. C., & Bauer, J. M. (2010). Functionality and mortality in obese nursing home residents: An example of ‘risk factor paradox’? Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 11, 428–435.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kalantar-Zadeh, K., Kilpatrick, R. D., Kuwae, N., & Wu, D. Y. (2005). Reverse epidemiology: A spurious hypothesis or a hardcore reality? Blood Purification, 23, 57–63.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kastenbaum, R. (2000). The psychology of death. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  21. Kleemeier, R. W. (1962). Intellectual changes in the senium. Proceedings of the Social Statistics Section of the American Statistical Association, 1, 290–295.Google Scholar
  22. Kunzmann, U., Little, T. D., & Smith, J. (2000). Is age-related stability of subjective well-being a paradox? Cross-sectional and longitudinal evidence from the Berlin Aging Study. Psychology and Aging, 15, 511–526.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McArdle, J. J. (2009). Latent variable modeling of differences and changes with longitudinal data. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 577–605.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Muniz-Terrera, G., van den Hout, A., Piccinin, A. M., Matthews, F. E., & Hofer, S. M. (2013). Investigating terminal decline: Results from a UK population-based study of aging. Psychology and Aging, 28, 377–385.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Palgi, Y., Shrira, A., Ben-Ezra, M., Spalter, T., Shmotkin, D., & Kavé, G. (2010). Delineating terminal change in subjective well-being and subjective health. The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 65B, 61–64.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pinquart, M. (2001). Age differences in perceived positive affect, negative affect, and affect balance in middle and old age. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2, 375–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ram, N., Gerstorf, D., Fauth, E., Zarit, S., & Malmberg, B. (2010). Aging, disablement, and dying: Using time-as-process and time-as-resources metrics to chart late-life change. Research in Human Development, 7, 27–44.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Riegel, K. F., & Riegel, R. M. (1972). Development, drop, and death. Developmental Psychology, 6, 306–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schilling, O. K. (2005). Cohort- and age-related decline in elder's life satisfaction: Is there really a paradox? European Journal of Ageing, 2, 254–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schilling, O. K., Wahl, H.-W., & Wiegering, S. (2013). Affective development in advanced old age: Analyses of terminal change in positive and negative affect. Developmental Psychology, 49, 1011–1020.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Siegler, I. C. (1975). The terminal drop hypothesis: Fact or artifact? Experimental Aging Research, 1, 169–185.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sliwinski, M. J., Hofer, S. M., Hall, C., Buschke, H., & Lipton, R. B. (2003). Modeling memory decline in older adults: The importance of preclinical dementia, attrition, and chronological age. Psychology and Aging, 18, 658–671.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sliwinski, M. J., Stawski, R. S., Hall, R. B., Katz, M., Verghese, J., & Lipton, R. B. (2006). On the importance of distinguishing pre-terminal and terminal cognitive decline. European Psychologist, 11, 172–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Small, B. J., & Bäckman, L. (1999). Time to death and cognitive performance. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 168–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Smits, C. H. M., Deeg, D. J. H., Kriegsman, D. M. W., & Schmand, B. (1999). Cognitive functioning and health as determinants of mortality in an older population. American Journal of Epidemiology, 150, 978–986.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Vogel, N., Schilling, O. K., Wahl, H.-W., Beekman, A. T. F., & Penninx, B. W. J. H. (2013). Time-to-death-related change in positive and negative affect among older adults approaching the end of life. Psychology and Aging, 28, 128–141.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. White, N., & Cunningham, W. R. (1988). Is terminal drop pervasive or specific? Journal of Gerontology, 43, P141–P144.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wilson, R. S., Beckett, L. A., Bienias, J. L., Evans, D. A., & Bennett, D. A. (2003). Terminal decline in cognitive function. Neurology, 60, 1782–1787.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wilson, R. S., Segawa, E., Hizel, L. P., Boyle, P. A., & Bennett, D. A. (2012). Terminal dedifferentiation of cognitive abilities. Neurology, 78, 1116–1122.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Windsor, T. D., Gerstorf, D., & Luszcz, M. A. (2015). Social resource correlates of levels and time-to-death-related changes in late-life affect. Psychology and Aging, 30, 136–148.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wohlwill, J. F. (1970). The age variable in psychological research. Psychological Review, 77, 49–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Yamaguchi, K. (1991). Event history analysis. Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological Ageing Research, Institute of PsychologyRuprecht-Karls-UniversitätHeidelbergGermany