June 21, 2011

UK: Study explores possible causes of well-being in old age

LONDON, England / Physorg.com / Social Sciences / June 21, 2011

Investigators from the UK and China are to analyse the most in-depth surveys on aging ever carried out in both countries to explore what key factors affect the well-being of the elderly. They will also compare differences between the two countries on what it means to be old in research that aims to inform policy makers looking to develop programmes to support the elderly.

The project ‘Understanding Inequality in Elderly Well-being in China and the UK’ is led by Professor Albert Park, Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford, in collaboration with Professor Y Zhao at Peking University. The international collaboration between researchers in the UK and China will use newly available data to answer global issues about aging and caring for the elderly.

The comparative research project will use two high-quality longitudinal datasets: the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) and the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS). ELSA is modelled on a similar study in the US ( the Health and Retirement Study) and aims to study a sample of people over the age of 50 every two years in order to see how people's health, economic and social circumstances change over time, as well as subjective questions about life satisfaction or feelings of loneliness.

The surveys also include a wealth of other data, such as whether the respondents have links with their community or relationships with family members, and socio-economic factors, education, physical and mental health, social interaction, sex, respondents’ ages and family characteristics.

An early analysis of the datasets has already presented some intriguing findings: the English dataset has shown that although wealth could be linked to feelings of well-being, it did not lead to a strong correlation over a longer period of time. The preliminary findings also suggest that social interactions are strongly linked to a sense of well-being.

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