Of Wisdom & Well-Being: Personal Wisdom & Quality of Life in Chinese Older Adults

Wisdom, or the accumulation of knowledge, judgment, reflection, and an experiential understanding of the social world, has long been acknowledged as a positive aspect of aging across countries and cultures. Research suggests that wisdom is a beneficial psychological attribute that may be linked to a sense of well-being, happiness, and better overall health. A recent study examines the relationship between personal wisdom and quality of life (QoL) in community-dwelling Chinese older adults.


The authors surveyed 486 rural and urban residents (248 men and 238 women) living in northwest China. Study participants were 60 years and better, most were married, and nearly half the sample had graduated from middle school or above. The authors predicted that personal wisdom was positively associated with the mental (e.g., depression and self-esteem) and physical (e.g., physical functioning) components of QoL. Study measures included, along with demographics, a three-dimensional wisdom scale, the 36-item short-form health survey (SF-36) scale to measure QoL, the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS), and a scale to measure self-esteem.


Study findings showed a positive relationship between personal wisdom and QoL for both urban- and rural-dwelling older adults. Simply put, older adults with greater wisdom were more likely to enjoy a better quality of life. Further, this relationship was influenced by depression and self-esteem—those with greater wisdom had lower levels of depression and higher self-esteem. Urban-dwelling older adults reported higher wisdom scores, better self-esteem, lower levels of depression, and better QoL overall than their rural-dwelling counterparts. With regard to gender differences, men reported better physical functioning scores than the women in the study. Interestingly, level of education (and not age) was associated with personal wisdom and both physical and mental components of QoL.


This study makes an important contribution to the ethno-gerontological literature on personal wisdom and overall health and well-being across cultures. Using in-depth, semi-structured interviews, future research could delve deeper into the factors driving the rural-urban differences in personal wisdom and QoL. Additionally, a longitudinal study design could help us understand whether the positive association between personal wisdom and QoL persists over time.



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Chen Z., Zhu M., Zheng L., and Xie X. Personal wisdom and quality of life among Chinese older adults. Journal of Health Psychology. 2021; https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105321999093

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