Researchers have widely established that greater satisfaction with life as a whole is associated with better health. But little attention has been given to understanding how satisfaction within different life domains (such as family life, finances, and leisure) is associated with health, making it difficult for policy makers to promote satisfaction within different life domains as tangible health benefiting solutions. Consequently, a study that earned a Silver 2022 Innovative Research on Aging Award has tried to better understand the association between life satisfaction and health by focusing on how different types of health may be associated with satisfaction within various life domains.
Researchers used data from 13,752 participants of the Health and Retirement Study. This nationally representative study collects longitudinal data from a panel of individuals age 50 and better, across multiple timepoints. The current study uses data collected from 2008 through 2010, from 2012 through 2014, and from 2016 through 2018. Researchers evaluated if satisfaction within seven life domains were associated with 35 different indicators of health. Life domains included home, city/town, daily life and leisure, family, financial situation, total household income, and overall health. Some of the health indicators included number of chronic conditions, physical functioning limitations, and behavioral and psychosocial health.
Findings indicate greater satisfaction with all life domains is associated with better physical health. Furthermore, greater satisfaction with daily life and leisure activities, financial situation, income, and health, are associated with decreased risk of physical functioning limitations, while greater satisfaction with finances is associated with better sleep. Except for satisfaction related to health, satisfaction with all other life domains were associated with all indicators of psychological well-being (including purpose in life), psychological distress (including depressive symptoms), and loneliness. Satisfaction with family and leisure were most strongly associated with these psychological health indicators.
Findings suggest how those interested in improving different health outcomes among older adults can tailor their efforts by focusing on improving satisfaction within specific life domains. For instance, while interventions promoting satisfaction with most life domains may improve psychological well-being and decrease psychological distress, interventions promoting satisfaction with family and leisure may be most beneficial.
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Nakamura, J. S., Delaney, S. W., Diener, E., VanderWeele, T. J., & Kim, E. S. (2022). Are all domains of life satisfaction equal? Differential associations with health and well-being in older adults. Quality of Life Research, 31(4), 1043-1056.