How people experience their own aging is more strongly linked to well-being than chronological age. This study examined associations of awareness of age-related change (AARC) with between-person differences and longitudinal changes in psychological well-being (PWB). We expected that higher AARC-gains would be associated with higher PWB and increases in PWB over time. Conversely, we expected higher AARC-losses would be associated with lower PWB, and steeper decline in PWB over time. Furthermore, we tested the interaction of AARC-gains and AARC-losses to examine whether negative associations between AARC-losses and PWB would be weaker among those reporting higher AARC-gains.
Data were collected in three waves from a 12-month longitudinal study of 408 community-dwelling older adults (aged 60+). Multilevel growth models were used to analyze associations between AARC and a composite measure of PWB which included key components of PWB identified in self-determination theory (satisfaction and frustration of basic psychological needs), as well as vitality, and life engagement.
At the between-person level, higher AARC-gains and lower AARC-losses were consistently associated with higher PWB. Furthermore, associations between AARC-losses and lower PWB were weaker among those with higher AARC-gains. There was no evidence to suggest the interplay of AARC-gains and AARC-losses had implications for change in PWB over time.
Appreciation of age-related gains may buffer the impact of AARC-losses on PWB. However, longitudinal studies conducted over varying macro- and micro-time scales are needed to better understand the developmental significance of AARC for later life.