Expressing gratitude has multiple social, emotional, and health benefits. In a study that earned the 2020 Gold Innovative Research on Aging Award, researchers examined the relationship between gratitude and life satisfaction across the life span.
The researchers examined data from three separate studies of more than 30,000 total participants from 40 countries, ranging in age from 15 to 90. Participants in each study completed measures assessing their level of gratitude and overall life satisfaction, in addition to other measures specific to each study.
Analysis of each sample showed that older adults consistently report the highest levels of gratitude, compared to middle-age and younger adults. Women tended to have higher gratitude than men, regardless of age. In all three samples, higher gratitude was associated with higher life satisfaction for all age groups. The researchers also tested if this effect differed by age, but the analyses suggested that gratitude is just as important for life satisfaction in younger and middle-age as it is for older adults.
Using a large, diverse sample, this study shows that the health and wellness benefits of expressing gratitude extend to life satisfaction as well. The findings also show that with age comes higher levels of gratitude, meaning this may be an important resource older adults use to maintain well-being. However, the association with life satisfaction across all age groups suggests that it’s never too early or too late to practice gratitude.
Since multiple datasets were used in this study, the questions used to measure gratitude and life satisfaction were not exactly the same in all three samples. For example, two studies used the same gratitude measure, albeit one used a shortened version, while the third study used a slightly different measure. While this may seem like a limitation, it may actually be a strength of the study. This showed that not only does the relationship between gratitude and life satisfaction hold up across multiple populations, but also across slightly different measures of gratitude. Future research will need to examine gratitude at multiple time points to uncover longitudinal benefits.
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Chopik WJ, Newton NJ, Ryan LH, Kashdan TB, and Jarden AJ. Gratitude across the life span: Age differences and links to subjective well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology (2019); 13(3), 292-302.