How Older Adults’ Living Environments Affect Quality of Life

A number of factors can contribute to an older adult’s quality of life, many of which relate to their surrounding environment. A recent study of 1,031 older adults looked at four different facets of an older adult’s quality of life and examined which types of environmental factors impacted each facet, as well as the extent to which environmental factors influenced quality of life scores.

The four aspects of quality of life that the study looked at were social, physical, psychological, and environmental. The social aspect covers personal relationships, social support, and sex life. The physical health aspect includes mobility, daily activities, functional capacity, energy, pain, and sleep. The psychological includes self-image, negative thoughts, positive attitudes, self-esteem, and mental status. The environmental includes financial resources, safety, health and social services, living environment, opportunities to acquire new skills and knowledge, recreation, general environment (noise, air pollution, etc.), and transportation. The examined environmental factors potentially impacting quality of life scores were housing (comfort, size, overall satisfaction with living space, etc.), facilities, residents (interactions with neighbors, behavior of neighbors, etc.), nuisance (vandalism, crime, social insecurity, etc.), neighborhood, stench/noise, and traffic.

Not surprisingly, all the environmental factors examined were shown to impact environmental quality of life scores. Taken together, these factors accounted for 24% of the variance in environmental quality of life scores, with facilities having the greatest effect on scores. The next most impacted quality of life area was the psychological. Here, environmental factors accounted for 11% of the variation, but only two of the environmental factors were statistically associated with this effect on psychological quality of life: housing and residents. Just over 9% of the physical health quality of life scores were accounted for by environmental factors. For physical quality of life, the only two significant environmental factors were housing and nuisances. Just under 9% of the variance in social quality of life scores was accounted for by environmental factors. Here the significant factors were housing and residents.

Looked at another way, housing was associated with all quality of life areas examined, with residents impacting all but the physical factor. On the other hand, nuisances were associated with physical and environmental quality of life scores. Based on these three environmental aspects affecting multiple aspects of quality of life, the authors suggest focusing interventions primarily on these factors to best support older adults’ quality of life.



Gobbens RJJ and van Assen MALM.  Associations of environmental factors with quality of life in older adults. The Gerontologist (2018); Vol. 58(1): 101–110. 

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