Does Psychological Well-Being Change with Age?

Pudrovska, Tetyana, Robert M. Hauser, and Kristen W. Springer
Working paper no. 2006-09


Using three large surveys, we: (1) assess the structure of Ryff’s scales of psychological well-being (RPWB) by examining the extent to which the six RPWB dimensions are differentially related to age, and (2) distinguish cohort differences in RPWB observed in a cross-section from true life-course changes associated with the transition from midlife to early old age for a cohort born in 1939. Several RPWB dimensions in our study exhibit distinct age profiles; yet, cross-sectional and longitudinal age variations are minor, accounting for less than one percent of the variance. Moreover, heterogeneity among individual scale items should be taken into account because scales comprising different items yield different age patterns. Finally, we suggest that cross-sectional findings do not accurately reflect maturational changes in some RPWB dimensions. We discuss our findings within the frameworks of dynamic equilibrium and emotional regulation.